Showing posts with label Ramblings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ramblings. Show all posts

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ramblings: Creating a Smoke Ring

I found this article interesting and informative. It was nice to find an authoritative explanation of the creation of smoke rings. The process is demystified a bit, but the specific nomenclature may be a little off-putting.

I contacted the author and he kindly agreed to the article being reprinted here.

Smoke Ring in Barbeque Meats

How to Get That Coveted Pink Ring With Your Cooking

by Joe Cordray

Slow cooked barbecue meats often exhibit a pink ring around the outside edge of the product. This pink ring may range from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch thick. In beef the ring is a reddish-pink and in pork, chicken and turkey it is bright pink. This pink ring is often referred to as a "smoke ring" and is considered a prized attribute in many barbecue meats, especially barbecue beef briskets. Barbecue connoiseurs feel the presence of a smoke ring indicates the item was slow smoked for a long period of time. Occasionally consumers have mistakenly felt that the pink color of the smoke ring meant the meat was undercooked. To understand smoke ring formation you must first understand muscle pigment.

Myoglobin is the pigment that gives muscle its color. Beef muscle has more pigment than pork muscle thus beef has a darker color than pork. Chicken thighs have a darker color than chicken breast thus chicken thigh muscle has more muscle pigment (myoglobin) than chicken breast tissue. A greater myoglobin concentration yields a more intense color. When you first cut into a muscle you expose the muscle pigment in its native state, myoglobin. In the case of beef, myoglobin has a purplish-red color. After the myoglobin has been exposed to oxygen for a short time, it becomes oxygenated and oxymyoglobin is formed. Oxymyoglobin is the color we associate with fresh meat. The optimum fresh meat color in beef is bright cherry red and in pork bright grayish pink. If a cut of meat is held under refrigeration for several days, the myoglobin on the surface becomes oxidized.

When oxymyoglobin is oxidized it becomes metmyoglobin. Metmyoglobin has a brown color and is associated with a piece of meat that has been cut for several days. When we produce cured products we also alter the state of the pigment myoglobin. Cured products are defined as products to which we add sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrite during processing. Examples of cured products are ham, bacon, bologna and hotdogs. All of these products have a pink color, which is typical of cured products. When sodium nitrite is combined with meat the pigment myoglobin is converted to nitric oxide myoglobin which is a very dark red color. This state of the pigment myoglobin is not very stable. Upon heating, nitric oxide myoglobin is converted to nitrosylhemochrome, which is the typical pink color of cured meats.

When a smoke ring develops in barbecue meats it is not because smoke has penetrated and colored the muscle, but rather because gases in the smoke interact with the pigment myoglobin. Two phenomenon provide evidence that it is not the smoke itself that causes the smoke ring. First, it is possible to have a smoke ring develop in a product that has not been smoked and second, it is also possible to heavily smoke a product without smoke ring development.

Most barbecuers use either wood chips or logs to generate smoke when cooking. Wood contains large amounts of nitrogen (N). During burning the nitrogen in the logs combines with oxygen (O) in the air to form nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Nitrogen dioxide is highly water-soluble. The pink ring is created when NO2 is absorbed into the moist meat surface and reacts to form nitrous acid. The nitrous acid then diffuses inward creating a pink ring via the classic meat curing reaction of sodium nitrite. The end result is a "smoke ring" that has the pink color of cured meat. Smoke ring also frequently develops in smokehouses and cookers that are gas-fired because NO2 is a combustion by-product when natural gas or propane is burned.

Let’s review the conditions that would help to contribute to the development of a smoke ring. Slow cooking and smoking over several hours. This allows time for the NO2 to be absorbed into and interact with the meat pigment.

Maintain the surface of the meat moist during smoking. NO2 is water-soluble so it absorbs more readily into a piece of meat that has a moist surface than one which has a dry surface. Meats that have been marinated tend to have a moister surface than non-marinated meats. There are also a couple of ways that you can help to maintain a higher humidity level in your cooker; 1. Do not open and close the cooker frequently. Each time you open it you allow moisture inside to escape. 2. Put a pan of water on your grill. Evaporation from the water will help increase humidity inside the cooker.

Generate smoke from the burning of wood chips or wood logs. Since NO2 is a by-product of incomplete combustion, green wood or wetted wood seems to enhance smoke ring development. Burning green wood or wetted wood also helps to increase the humidity level inside the cooker.

A high temperature flame is needed to create NO2 from nitrogen and oxygen. A smoldering fire without a flame does not produce as much NO2. Consequently, a cooker that uses indirect heat generated from the burning of wood typically will develop a pronounced smoke ring. Have fun cooking. A nice smoke ring can sure make a piece of barbecued meat look attractive.

About the Author:

Joe Cordray is the Meat Extension Specialist at Iowa State University’s nationally renowned Meat Lab, located in Ames, IA. He has been writing for The BBQer since Fall of 2001

(used with permission)


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Monday, July 6, 2009

Ramblings: Chris Lilly 2 Minute Chicken

It seems that we are on a Chris Lilly kick lately. Later this week we will be posting a review of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book. To tide you over, here is a video of Chris on the Today Show competing on a Fourth of July special against Elizabeth Karmel from Hill Country.

Chris and Elizabeth each prepare a chicken dish in 2 minutes for a crowd to 'ooooh' and 'ahhhh' over and judges to render a verdict on. Enjoy the frenetic poultry presentation.


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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ramblings: Happy Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July

I hope that you get to spend today celebrating with friends and family.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ramblings: Custom BBQ Items

Huntingdon County Customs

Looking for a novel gift for that BBQ fanatic in your life? How about a unique prize for a competition you are running?

Brian Nevel of Huntingdon County Customs is the man to see.

Although they craft an array of custom metal products, Brian’s passion is BBQ. Whether it’s a tiny (and I do mean tiny) but fully working offset smoker or a new grates for your smoker or grill personalized with your name or logo, Brian breathes his love of BBQ into everything he makes.

Among their wide selection of custom products, Huntingdon County Customs also manufactures smokers made from Kegs. A small and portable unit, they are great for tailgating or any casual event.

Want everyone to know who cooked that delicious steak? Check out their custom branding irons.

Although you’ll find enough cool stuff here to satisfy any BBQ fan, the best option may be to come up with your own concepts and have Huntingdon fabricate them. Give them a yell.

You can visit their site by clicking here.

You can reach them by calling


1-(877)-272-0527 (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. eastern)


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ramblings: Snapple Big Apple BBQ - Video

Snapple Big Apple BBQ Block Party Intro

As an introduction to our interview with Chris Lilly at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party (check back tomorrow for part one), we are presenting an ode to New York City with an emphasis on the event.



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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ramblings: Snapple Big Apple BBQ

2009 Snapple Big Apple BBQ Block Party

This weekend New York City will welcome pitmasters from across the country as the city that never sleeps hosts the Snapple Big Apple BBQ Block Party. The only local event that I can cover for the Home of BBQ, this event has premier artisans representing every style of BBQ.

Luminaries such as Mike Mills, Chris Lilly and Ray ‘Dr. BBQ’ Lampe will be brushing shoulders with hundreds of thousands of crazy New Yorkers as Madison Square Park becomes BBQ central. Smokers and rigs will be lining two of the four sides of the park as hungry locals clamor for authentic ‘Q.

In addition to the great food, there will be continuous live music in the park and seminars, book signings and demonstrations going on in the tents on a side street. As always, admission is free for the event, the seminars and the music. The BBQ is $8.00 a plate.

As we did last year, the Home of BBQ will be present to take in the event. We hope to get there a bit early and get a behind the scenes look at the event, the pitmasters and the experience as a whole.

Check back next Wednesday for the first recap.


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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ramblings: Premium - Gourmet Burger Blends

Premium Burger Blends

There has been a trend of late for restaurants and meat purveyors to construct gourmet burger blends. These burgers cost more, but they come with a pedigree. No expense is spared in the creation of these blends, but is the result worth the expense and extra work?

Until recently there have been two types of upscale burgers. The first is a publicity stunt, pure and simple. These include the Richard Nouveau Burger found at the Wall Street Burger Shoppe that amongst its accoutrements counts gold leaf and the $186.00 The Burger produced at a London location of Burger King (yep, Burger King). The second was a ‘steak burger’, where the chef substituted prime steak for the standard 80/20 chuck. As you can imagine, there was a pretty wide disparity between the two styles of premium burgers.

Recently some middle ground has been found. Meat wholesalers, such as Main Street Meats ( have been experimenting with creating a premium blend of high end meats to create the perfect burger. Main Street Meats, who have a mail order business for those outside their immediate area, includes kobe brisket, prime aged rib cap and short rib meat to achieve what they consider the best possible burger.

Although these blends are intended for restaurants, they are becoming available to the public with increasing frequency. The cost of the meat is about 80% more than that for standard, good quality ground beef. Not too drastic an increase for a luxury.

I purchased a few pounds of the 1946 Blend Premium Ground Beef and a pound of the standard ground beef from Main Street Meats. Side by side, I formed a patty of each. Trying to obtain an unadulterated flavor, I just added salt and pepper to the top and bottom of each patty. I cooked the patties side by side with the same heat for the same length of time.

The precooked weight of the standard burger was 7.9 oz. After cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.1 ounces. The precooked weight of the premium burger was 8.1 ounces. The weight after cooking to medium rare, the weight was 7.6 oz. The premium burger with the presumably higher fat content actually lost less weight (by volume) than the standard burger. I’m not sure, but I believe that the melting fat caused flare ups that seared the premium burger quickly, sealing in the rest of the moisture.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I assumed that either the difference would be dramatic, with the premium burger being vastly superior to the standard burger, or there would be no discernible taste difference. I was wrong on both counts.

The premium burger was clearly different in flavor and texture. It was also clearly a better, lusher burger. The difference was (in my opinion) certainly worth the price increase. Oddly, the difference wasn’t just that the flavor was amped up. The premium burger had a denser, more ‘meaty’ taste. As you can see from the pictures, prior to cooking the standard burger had a richer red coloring (possibly due to the fat content) and post cooking the premium burger had a darker, more intense sear (although they were roughly the same size and cooked under the same conditions).

The standard burger was lighter in taste and texture than the premium burger. As most burgers come with an assortment of toppings, the premium burger seems better designed to host other flavors. The more ‘meaty’ flavor can stand up to the onions, ketchup and other additions.

I’m not someone that adds a lot to my burgers. I’ll possibly slap on some cheese and maybe mustard, but aside from ketchup on a rare occasion, that’s it. I do, however, add to the meat itself. I have been accused of making meatloaf burgers as I add worcestershire sauce, pepper and other flavors to the meat before grilling. Although I’m usually happy with the results, this experiment has helped me to realize that it’s not really necessary. The flavor of the meat itself should shine through.

I believe that I will be cutting back on adding to the meat and I will certainly be using the premium blend again.

Interested in burgers? Check out PigTrips interview with Nick Solares of A Hamburger Today.


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Ramblings: Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Most of the book reviews on the Home of BBQ have been for large and often lavish cookbooks or books about the culture of BBQ. There is another style of book out there that deserves attention. Small ‘chapbooks’ that don’t have the same level of presentation, but have a considerably lower price point are common enough to warrant commentary.

Do these books strike a balance that makes them worthwhile? Are the potential savings worth the sacrifice of size, depth, visuals and gloss?

Although most books of limited size and expense are geared towards the novice, we are going to try to review them as objectively as possible. Our next five books reviewed will all cost under $14.00 and will be less than a hundred pages in length. Three of the five will not have a listed author and all will be currently in print. Two will be by a BBQ legend and have just been released.

The question at hand is will these be books be of use to anyone, and if they are what segment of the BBQ population will find them useful.

Look for the first review in two days.


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ramblings: ABC's Wife Swap

Wife Swap Looking for BBQ Families

Would you be interested in appearing on ABC’s Wife Swap?

They are looking for a family that is seriously into competition BBQ to appear on an upcoming episode. The participating family will make $20,000.00 if the episode makes it to air.

Here is the official blurb:


BBQ Cooking Competitors/Enthusiasts!

Casting Directors for ABC TV’s hit reality show, “Wife Swap,” are now conducting national searches for fun, dynamic, outgoing and interesting families to star on Season 5 of “Wife Swap”.

· Do you or all of your family members BBQ competitively?

· Would you like to share your passion for BBQ-ing with another family?

· Would you be excited about the chance to change the life of a deserving family or improve your own?

· Interested families must have children living at home between the ages of 7 and 17 (you can have older and younger kids but you must have at least one child in the required age range)

If you would like to apply, send me your contact info and I’ll pass it along to the producer.

You can send the information to:


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Monday, March 30, 2009

Ramblings: KCBS & Small Events

KCBS: Protecting IP’s or Draconian Overkill?

Why quibble? Let’s surmise that both are true.

It seems that the KCBS has been much more active of late in aggressively protecting what they perceive to be their intellectual properties. As a supporter and member of the KCBS, I am in full support of this. As with many things in life, the problem here is not in what they are attempting to do, but how they are going about it.

A number of small, non-sanctioned contests have been receiving official ‘cease and desist’ letters from the KCBS, claiming that the organizers have been utilizing protected material without the consent of the KCBS. Oddly, these claims have extended to grilling contests.

I’m arranging for an interview with a lawyer to be published here next week where we will discuss in broad terms the legal implications of the actions by the KCBS and what is and what isn’t protected material. I fully endorse the KCBS doing whatever is necessary to ensure that their name and protected properties are neither abused nor slip into the public domain. Unfortunately, the sudden and severe measures taken by the KCBS run the risk of alienating the very people that they depend on to grow the hobby and their membership.

As someone involved in the organizational aspects of competition BBQ in my area, I have had conversations with a number of organizers who have received these letters and have expressed serious concern and consternation. These are the people in the trenches, selflessly working to promote the hobby we all care about. Not only was their first contact from the KCBS about their events one that was inherently hostile, it also lacked specificity and an attempt to work with organizer to ameliorate the situation.

What could have the KCBS done better? Glad you asked.

1) An initial letter stating the event in question was utilizing intellectual properties owned by the KCBS and that the event in its current form would need to be sanctioned by the KCBS for the 2010 season. That would allow a one year grace period, which would have been especially appreciated by events that received the cease and desist letter within a month’s time of their event, not allowing them much time to fix whatever problems that exist.

2) Be specific. The letters were general in nature and provided no specificity. What do you perceive to be too close to KCBS’ protected practices? If the KCBS can’t identify the problem areas than it is hard for the organizers to accommodate their requests.

3) Attempt to work with the organizers. Offer a one year reduced fee. Provide a public domain alternate set of rules or guidelines for starting events and allow them to grow into ‘the bigtime’ with full blown sanctioning. Put them in contact with KCBS Reps in their area who can answer questions for them and offer advice.

In addition to running the risk of offending the very people that they need to promote their existence to the general public, the KCBS has also let it be known that their official event representatives are not to assist at non-KCBS sanctioned events. This ban is not limited to BBQ competitions but at the very least extends to Grilling contests. Does it include chili cook-offs? What about cake decorating contests? I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out.

So, if there is a dearth of smaller, start up competitions in the near future, we have at least one direction to look when seeking a cause.

We will be looking into this further and providing more detailed information.


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Monday, March 9, 2009

Ramblings: BBQ Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

The weekend before last we were the lucky recipients of more than 12” of snow. This past weekend we had weather in the 60’s. That’s the hallmark of the start of Spring here in the north east.

I smoked a couple of Bacon Explosion variants and grilled up a bunch of hamburgers on Saturday. While using the snow as a safe place to hold the hot charcoal chimney, I realized that it was time to start getting serious about prepping for grilling weather.

Step One: Assess Your Equipment

Does anything need to be replaced? Are the hoses for the propane on your gas grill fully intact? Does the igniter still work? What’s the condition of your charcoal chimney (mine was horrible)? Has water gotten into your any of your thermometers?

Step Two: Tightening it Up

How are your grills structurally? Is there a handle loose? Do you need to tighten the legs on your WSM? Is the ash sweeper moving smoothly?

Step Three: Cleaning

There are a number of sites out there that offer specific and excellent advice for cleaning your grills. Derrick Riches of has a great article on general cleaning found here.

What about rusting? A light sanding and a trip to your local hardware store for high temp paint will take care of that.

Looking to get the shine back on those cooking grates? A trip to any BBQ supply store will offer both new grates for most grills and solvents specifically made for cleaning BBQ grates. If you have none near you, check online for stores such as these.

Step Four: Tools

If you are checking out your equipment, you might as well take a look at your tools.

Go over your spatulas, forks, brushes, baskets, rib racks, abt holders and the rest. Make sure that they are cleaned and in good working order.

Step Five: Start Cooking!

Get out there and do some grilling or BBQ’ing.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ramblings: The Future of BBQ - Did You Know?

The Future of BBQ

We have recently reviewed a few books that dealt with the history of BBQ. Let’s turn our heads in the other direction for a moment and take a look at what is ahead. What can we expect to see in 20 or 40 years?

Sophisticated trend analysis and dedicated prognostication has led me to see the following developments (ok, I’m guessing):

1) Bioengineered pigs

I believe that we can look forward to pigs that are genetically designed for taste and size. Swine eugenics will lead to tasty BBQ for the masses. Can we dare to hope for a pig with all ribs as tender as the babybacks? Scientists today are laying the groundwork for science/gastronomy of tomorrow.

2) Enhanced Appearance

Nanotechnology will help the incompetent to play at a higher level. Want a thicker bark? No problem. Want a deeper smoke ring? Got it.

3) Texture

Concerned about having enough time to properly cook a brisket? Back we go to nanotechnology. Dissolving hearty tissue and softening meat will be enhanced by technology, leaving artistry in the past.

4) Taste

In 40 years marinades and FAB will seem as primitive as youtube aficionados making videos of ribs being boiled. Sauces and rubs will be akin to ambrosia before the opening of Pandora’s Box. Better BBQ through chemistry will not only perfect the balance of flavors but will also stimulate the palette in a more natural and effective way than MSG or FAB.

5) Cooking

Stokers and Gurus will develop to the point where they will practically have a robot that will deliver your turn-ins for you. Eventually we will see a clear dichotomy between the cooks who barely look at their meat and the die hards working on their UDS’s and other home made equipment.

Ok, is this a pipe dream? Maybe. But maybe not. I saw this video and it was pretty enlightening. If, like me, you barely give any thought to the topics that obsess futurists, it’s worth a look. Maybe two.


Friday, January 30, 2009

RAMBLING: KCBS Election Results

The Home of BBQ would like to congratulate the winners of the recent Board of Directors elections for the Kansas City BBQ Society.

The results were announced at the KCBS Annual Banquet, held in Nashville, Tennessee.

We sincerely wish the winners the best of luck as they work on the behalf of the membership.

Merl Whitebook - 1248 votes
Don Harwell - 1133 votes
Wayne Lowhman - 1092 votes
Gene Goychochea - 838 votes


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Friday, January 23, 2009

Ramblings: BBQ Joint Reviews

I have determined that I would never want to be a professional restaurant critic.

Gary, the proprietor of, was generous enough to invite me to join him on trips to four different BBQ joints that he was reviewing. I enjoy joining Gary on these jaunts. The BBQ banter is fun. Critiquing the food, service and ambience is enjoyable. The experience, however, is one that is best enjoyed in moderation.

Feeling an obligation to ‘do the restaurant justice’ pulls you from the simple pleasures of sitting down to a good meal with friends. I recently posted a synopsis of a visit to a local BBQ joint at the BBQ Brethren forums. I was there with my niece and parents. My father had a burger and I had a hot dog. If I were there to review the restaurant I would have had a responsibility to order a sampling of the BBQ fare. Don’t feel like BBQ that day? Have a hankering for a hot dog? Too bad.

From my visits with Gary and my experiences purchasing food from Long Islands various joints to bring back to a friends BBQ place for comparison purposes, I would hazard a guess that my threshold for reviews is about once a month.

I strive to ensure that the information on this site is not geographically specific, ensuring that the posts are as useful to someone in Maine as they are to someone in Alabama. Because of this, we don’t do restaurant reviews. We can, however, discuss the process.

The first step is planning. Are you going to hit more than one place that day? What are their hours? How close are they to each other? Is this a new visit or a return trip? Do you want to repeat the same menu items from your first visit? What time of day are you arriving? Should you go later to allow for meats to have been smoked from that morning? Do you try to avoid the time approaching closing so that you don’t get food that has been sitting in a steam table for hours?

Once you arrive at the restaurant your first concern is anonymity. You want to try the food exactly the way that everyone else gets it. You don’t bring attention to yourself. You take photos surreptitiously. Questions are asked about smoking woods or the type of pit without trying to sound too knowledgeable or overly curious.

Before getting to your table, you take in the ambience. Were you greeted at the door? Is the staff friendly? Is the room too hot or cold? Is the music deafening? Do they have a motif? Did they achieve their d├ęcor goals or does it come across as kitschy?

Once you are seated you try to gauge how long it takes to be approached by your server and to receive water at your table. How is the service? Does the server offer suggestions? Are they knowledgeable about the menu?

Hopefully you are joined by friends so that you can order a large amount of food without it appearing to be a bacchanalian feast. All of the basics are covered. Appetizers will usually include Burnt Ends and maybe some smoked wings. Side dishes will include a sampling of corn bread, beans, coleslaw, collard greens and mac & cheese. Main dishes will include ribs (beef, St. Luis and baby backs), brisket, chicken and pork (usually pulled). Specialties may be tried if they are apropos (such as a smoked meatloaf). Sadly, you are usually too full to try a dessert, although a bread pudding or a cobbler are just as emblematic of BBQ as ribs.

You sit and discuss while trying to digest. If possible you take notes that you will flesh out when you leave. If this is your second trip of the day you start to plan your menu for the rest of the week. Salads will play a large part. Tofu is no longer classified as a four letter word. You pay the bill and make your way to your car, mission accomplished.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ramblings: 200 Posts

With this post we have passed the 200 post threshold.

I would like to take a minute to thank everyone who has checked in and visited the site. A special thanks go to those that have offered feedback, whether in the form of comments on the site or via email.

The site has had three major structural changes since it's inception. I'm happy with the way the site looks and I have no plans to change it.

Our contests have fallen by the wayside, but that will change next month. February will be a big month for free sauce.

I also regret that our articles on BBQ pairings have not been as prolific as I would have liked. I hope to remedy that in the coming months.

We hope to have 5 interviews up over the next month and a half. I'm sure that you will enjoy them.

We have about 6 outstanding book reviews that are coming your way, including one for Savage BBQ, possibly the most erudite book on BBQ I have ever read.

What would you like to see from the Home of BBQ in the future?


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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ramblings: KCBS Endorsements

If you are a member of the KCBS, you have until January 17th to cast your votes for the open Board of Directors positions. This should be a matter of interest for anyone that is concerned about organized BBQ and its future. With the introduction of The Great American BBQ Tour and the growth of organized events outside the traditional BBQ hot zones, change is in the air. Your vote is needed to determine whether change will be embraced and encouraged or if the status quo will be reinforced.

The Board of Directors represents the membership and will help to dictate how the organization takes its next steps into the future of our hobby. I encourage you to take a few minutes to determine what you would like the KCBS to be in the next few years and vote for the people that you feel will bring that vision to fruition. Read the platforms of the candidates. Contact them if you have any questions. If you don’t receive a response, that provides you with valuable information right there.

The Home of BBQ is endorsing two candidates. The first is based on personal experience in public forums. No one involved in any way with the KCBS has been more open and communicative with the membership than Merl Whitebook. This is a hot button issue for me and he is far and away my first choice. Aside from his willingness to listen to and respond to the membership, Merl is one of the most active members of the BoD and he has both my vote and endorsement.

Gene Goycochea is receiving our recommendation based on his platform and by the caliber of the people who recommend him. Thom Emery is a past president of the California BBQ Association and I respect his opinion immensely. He endorses Gene whole heartedly. From BBQ enthusiasts that I have spoken with, Gene embodies what we want and need in someone representing the membership and the hobby. Coming from the West Coast, I am hoping that he can help to bring some regional diversity.

You should have received an email providing you with a link to the voting site. If you are a member and have not received this email, please write to the address below and they will get things straightened out for you.

I would appreciate your feedback in the comments section if you support any of the candidates running.


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Friday, January 9, 2009

Ramblings: Kingsford Competition Briquets

Kingsford has released a new brand of charcoal briquette that’s designed for the competitor and those that would like to cook like a competitor. Why does this matter? The vast majority of serious BBQ cooks do not use the most popular brand of charcoal on the market. Why is this and what does it mean for the everyday backyard griller?

In a poll of competition cooks (including numerous state champions), the most popular charcoal brands for their purposes are Wicked Good, Rancher and Royal Oak. Kingsford was listed, but didn’t even approach the popularity of the others. Think that’s odd? rates charcoal and Kingsford is rated 61st by their readers. Take a moment to let that settle in. Kingsford is ranked 61st by grilling aficionados.

It seems that Kingsford’s current product doesn’t achieve the heat, sustainability, and taste profile that competitors are looking for. Competitors use what garners them the best results with judges. The judging at most competitions is blind. Those who are responsible for adjudication have no idea if you are using lump or not, national or local brands or even if you are using charcoal at all. If this is an accurate barometer of the quality of charcoal, backyard grillers have been getting shortchanged in the fuel department.

To rectify this, the makers of Kingsford have taken steps to ensure that they provide a product that is designed to meet the needs of today’s competitors with the introduction of Kingsford Competition Briquets (sic). These new briquettes should be available to the home consumer by April 1st, just in time for the start of grilling weather. The goal seems to be to match ease of use with quality of cooking.

Touted by Kingsford for its ability to foster high heat while maintaining that heat for longer periods of time, these new briquettes should be able to go from lighting to cooking in under 15 minutes. I will be doing some experimentation over the next few weeks comparing Wicked Good to Kingsford Competition Briquets. I’ll be using the same volume of charcoal, the same lighting method, the same food and the same grill.

I’m excited to see that an industry leader is interested in bridging the gap between the average (albeit commercially successful) and the competition worthy. I hope that our tests show that Kingsford has a product that the competitive cook will use as often as the backyard cook.

Over the next few weeks you will find information about Kingsford Competition Briquets, recipes from Chris Lilly (Kingsford’s Pitmaster) and our test results. Check back often!


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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ramblings: BBQ Gifts

Well, the holidays are upon us. With people looking for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and party gifts I thought that I would offer up a few suggestions. If you have someone in your life who is a BBQ fan, these tips might come in handy.


1) Make up a coupon for a free grill cleaning. Some enthusiasts are control freaks who prefer to handle things themselves, but most people would LOVE to have someone give their grills and accessories a thorough cleaning.

2) Organize, type-up and print hand written recipes, techniques, notes and competition strategies. Create a binder and create multiple copies (if the recipient is a member of a competition team).

Under $10.00

1) Heat Resistant Paint: Rust-Oleum offers a heat resistant spray on enamel in a variety of colors. These 12 oz. cans retail for under $7.00 and offer protection on heat up to 1200 degrees.

Whether doing touch-ups or adding a logo to your grill or smoker, this is a gift that BBQ fans would enjoy.

2) BBQ Sauce: Peruse our site or visit for suggestions on quality sauces. Most can be ordered online.

Under $20.00

1) Chimney Starters: We recommend Weber Charcoal Chimney’s, but there are a number of manufacturers that produce quality starters. We would suggest avoiding Charcoal Companion brand due to poor customer service and shoddy products. Over time starters become weakened by stress and use and cheaper models can become rusted. A replacement or additional starter is always welcome.

2) Smoking Woods: Wood for smoking and flavoring can be found at many local stores, including Lowes and Home Depot. I would recommend supporting small companies such as Maine Grilling Woods who offer their products online. Apple, alder, peach, mesquite and oak all offer specific flavors and aromas to BBQ and small quantities are great to experiment with.

3) BBQ Books: The market place is rife with great BBQ related books. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of subpar books out there. Check our ‘Reviews’ section for suggestions. Holy Smoke would be a great sample of a book about BBQ and anything by Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe would make a great stocking stuffer for the cookbook lover on your list.

Under $50.00

1) Mail Order Meat: No fan of BBQ is going to be disappointed by receiving quality meat products, such as sausage from Meyer’s Elgin from Texas.

2) BBQ Accessories: Aprons, heat resistant gloves, folding tables, chairs, sanitation gloves, mixing bowls, cleaning products are all standard equipment for competitors. Adding to their arsenal would be a big help. Just know what they already have and help fill in the rest.

3) Jalapeno Grill: Grills for making stuffed jalapenos are a fantastic tool that many enthusiasts haven’t gotten a hold of yet. Check out The Iron Desert for examples.

4) Grinders: There are a number of grinders that can be purchased at varying costs and efficiencies. For the BBQ fan that makes their own rubs, this would be a valued tool. Simple coffee grinders do the job admirably (but make sure that you label each grinder separately unless you enjoy chipotle flavored coffee).

Under $100.00

1) Kettle Grill: You can purchase charcoal grills for under $100.00. The best of the bunch in this category are the Weber One Touch Silver grills.

2) Thermometers: There are some excellent thermometers that are under $100.00. Remote thermometers, multiple probe thermometers and the ultra-fast yellow thermapens are all in this price range.

3) CBJ Class: Attending a Certified BBQ Judge class gives competitors an insight into what judges are looking for and puts prospective judges at the top of the list for most competitions. You can look for classes in your area by visiting

Under $500

1) 22” WSM: This new smoker is a considerable size upgrade for the venerable and beloved Weber Smokey Mountain. For competitors, the increased capacity will help to cook multiple categories on the same unit. For backyard enthusiasts, cooking for large groups just became easier.

2) Cooking Class: Many top competitors offer classes for novices and midlevel BBQ fans to help them bridge the gap between just starting out and competing with the ‘big boys’. Classes are usually an overnight affair that flattens the learning curve as students have the opportunity to learn from those who are talking the talk because they walked the walk.

3) Contest Entry: Paying for someone’s entry into a contest is a great way to get on their good side and an excellent strategy for getting to the top of the list for leftovers. The two biggest constraints for competitors are time and money. You can’t help with time, but you can certainly assist with the monetary aspects.


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