Monthly Archives: June 2012

Shredded Pork Shoulder… For A Big Crowd

As I have mentioned before, I am in the parish men’s club. That comes with certain responsibilities, including working zealously at the annual fish fry and eating food / crushing AB-InBev products at our monthly meeting.

One of those responsibilities was presented to me a few weeks ago: “We need you to cook dinner at the June meeting. It’s the same night as the washers tournament, so plan on 50 guys.”

What’s fairly simple that has wide appeal, especially to a beer-swilling crowd of old men from St. Louis? Pork shoulder, of course.

I have never cooked for more than a dozen adults and as many kids at a family function, but this is a little more intense. I made an epic trip to Sam’s Club. A learned BBQer that I know through a friend told me to make one pound of raw pork meat per person, so I went ahead and bought eight shoulders that came in at about 55 lbs.

My bounty from Sam’s Club

As you can see, I also bought a ton of other stuff, like beans, corn, beer (for me), wood, charcoal, buns, seasoning, cole slaw, etc. At any place but Sam’s, the jackass cashier would ask about your weekend plans and then semi-jokingly invite themselves.

I got to the school parking lot around 10:30am with plans to serve dinner at 6:00pm. Most unfortunately, I came across a couple septuagenarian dudes grilling burgers for some octogenarian ladies having a luncheon in the cafeteria. The grill was full (FULL!) of charcoal and the thermometer said 500 degrees. This is a problem.

After evicting those guys and cleaning out the grill, I was ready to go at noon. I set up the fire box on the side of the smoker with a huge amount of water-soaked hickory wood chunks on top of the coals.

Hickory wood ready to do its magic

We bought this grill to replace the rusted-out shitbox of a grill that we had been using for years. It was a custom rig from some shop in Memphis and cost a pretty penny.

Behold the wonders of modern BBQ

As the smoke began to fill the chamber, I got my rub ready to go. Again, having never done this before, I made way too much rub.

I needed enough for eight shoulders, so I poured in 2lbs of brown sugar, a full container of paprika, a half container of seasoned salt, and a bunch of garlic pepper.

Too much pork rub

I made about 40% too much, which is a damned waste. But, having rolled a bunch of raw pork in it, the remainder had to be tossed.

55 lbs. of pig meat… never too much

The shoulders were arranged fat side up on the grill with the smoker in full force, and then I sprinkled on a little more rub for good measure.

Shoulders covered in salty sugar

I figured I would rotate everything around at about the 1.5 hour mark.

A profile photo of the raw pork

After an hour and a half, I reloaded the fire box with more wet wood and did a little ballet of moving the meat around so as to evenly cook it all.

Smoke reloaded

I shuffled the meat around a couple more times to get things cooked up evenly.

Three hours of smoking

I decided to BBQ up 2 lbs of maple bacon to chop into the baked beans. You really can’t have enough pork at this BBQ.

The shoulder looks amazing and is coming along nicely, evidenced by the bubbly fat cracking through the plaster walls of the charred sugary rub.

Eat me

After around four hours of cooking, each shoulder was wrapped. I made an X out of heavy duty aluminum foil and put the pork in the center. I made a boat around the meat, then poured in half of a PBR and maybe 3-4 oz. of BBQ sauce, along with a little seasoned salt and garlic pepper. Each was crimped and put back on the grill to finish.

Percolating beer and spice

The beans needed more than the original 1 lb of bacon, so a second pound cooks above. Some canned corn has joined the party! I also bought a cookie tray.

Finally, after about 7 hours total on the BBQ, I was ready to shred / chop the shoulder into some pans. All of the luxurious beer / seasoning / fat drippings went right into the meat.

Chopped pork. Ready for your belly.

I served it all up on a long folding table and the metal tray behind the grill.

Eat up, people.

So maybe I grossly over-calculated two things: (1) how many people would show up, and (2) how much meat each person would eat. After everyone had eaten their fill and more, I still had two unshredded shoulders and some more meat in the pan. I pawned off as much leftovers as I could on people, who were all to willing to fill up to-go containers with the good stuff. It made a great lunch and dinner for me today.

Pork.

It was universally well-received, even by the two hardcore BBQers in the men’s club. They were either bullshitting me to protect my feelings or were genuinely impressed, and frankly either one of those is fine by me. The rest of the men’s club, full of beer-chugging washers players in 90+ degree heat, were all thrilled with the dinner. I enjoyed a smug sense of self-satisfaction, despite the fact that I lost both washers games and then crapped out at poker that night.

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BBQ Preview: Shredded Pork Shoulder for Fifty

I’ve never tried to cook for anything larger than a big family outing, so tomorrow is a big step. I was tapped to make dinner for 50 men at the annual washers tournament. Here’s everything the night before, including eight pork shoulders coming in at 54 lbs total and a monstrous amount of hickory wood.

My bounty from Sam’s Club

Hopefully the post on Friday that gives an account of my adventure is more positive than negative…

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Happy Fathers’ Day

Because we all need role models.

Simpson BBQ, circa 1978ish

Grandpa Simpson helping Ol’ Crosseyes in the Radio Flyer

Dad getting me started on my love of bottled beverages

Pop taking us out into the snow. That coat of mine, by the way, had removable sleeves and made an epic Marty McFly-ish vest.

Managers usually have their hair a little better kept.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Pop. I bought the pork ribs and bottled Old Style.

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Fantasy Football: Eliminate the Kicker

From time to time, I like to deviate from the two main topics of this blog (BBQ & Beer). This is one of those times.

When I am not filling my belly with pork fat and brew, or sometimes while I am, I enjoy managing a little fantasy football. As a general rule, I suck at fantasy football. I have been doing it for a decade in two leagues. The result? One league title, a handful of division titles, and a second place finish. That’s in 17 combined fantasy seasons. Like I said – pretty crappy.

Pray For Mojo (f/k/a Delicious Suppositories): 55-71 in 9 years, with one 2nd place finish (2003)

Desperate Housepets: 56-46 in 8 years, with one title (2010)

Still, all that exposure to fantasy football has given me some perspective. I have a theory unencumbered to date by data: Kickers are worthless.

I suck!
(Credit: Source, License)

My thesis is based on several presumptions:

1. Kicker preseason rankings rarely correlate to kicker end-of-season rankings, creating highly random drafting

2. Kickers’ week-to-week scoring is sporadic and unpredictable, further randomizing the position’s value

3. Eliminating kickers would add more skill to the league, by virtue of eliminating the random kickers

4. The difference between the #1 kicker and the #12 kicker is negligible

5. I hate soccer, and the kicking game is basically soccer encroaching upon American football

I am not alone. Here is a great article on ditching the FFL kicker. This is another one, from a guy who hates the D/ST as well (another position I would chop).

[Quick Disclaimer: I am not a statistician. Errors are bound to be here.]

I advocated for eliminating the kicker from one of my leagues for the 2012 season and beyond, and was challenged by some leaguemates to defend that position. This post is that defense.

Start with the kicker scoring. You will note the absence of TDs, yardage, points for a reception or pass, etc. 99.99% of the time, unless some insane once-an-NFL-season play is called and then executed successfully. Totally lame. Do these guys even consider themselves football players?

Extra points: 1

Field goal up to 39 yards: 3

Field goal 40-49 yards: 4

Field goal 50+ yards: 5

Missed field goal up to 39 yards: -1

Missed extra point: -1

This is how ESPN ranked the top 18 kickers going into the 2011 season. I have add their final rankings (where NR = not ranked, here in the top 18), their preseason auction value, the final score (under the above rules), along with their team. Note that Kickers ranked after 11 are literally worthless.

2011 Placekickers… what a waste of my time

In all fairness, Nate Kaeding tore his ACL on the first play as a kicker, which is actually pretty incredibly lame since he is a damn placekicker. His replacement finished 13th. Still, we can throw out his drop from a preseason rank of 1 to being not ranked.

Seven of the final top 18 kickers were not ranked in the top 18 going into the season, including 2 of the top 5. Of the top 5 to end the season, only Gostkowski was in both top 5s. Being a Patriot, he’s probably cheating horribly somehow… somehow.

No, I’m still not over SB XXXVI

Besides the freak show of David Akers scoring way more than anyone else in 2011, the difference between PK #2 (Kasay) and PK #13 (Novak), who should not be on a roster when 12 teams are in the league, is 19 points. Over a 16 week NFL season that’s a hair over one point per game. One.

Was 2011 an aberration? Nope. 2010 was even crazier. Here are the preseason top 12, with the same stats as above:

2010 Kickers… my time is worthless, like $0 kickers!

Again, Lawrence Tynes and Jeff Reed were both literally worthless yet worthy of starting in a 12 team league. Think about that.

Way to go, David Akers! The only one who stayed in the top 5. Among the top 10, only two stayed. That’s two straight seasons where a single top 5 preseason kicker actually finished in the top 5, and where two of the top three and the top overall were not even ranked going into the season.

Seabass’ amazing season where he went from unranked to PK #1 gives you a 38 point swing over free agent PK #13, ironically the preseason favorite in Nate Kaeding. While that is two points per week, the difference between PK #3 and PK #12 is a shade over one point per week. Hardly worth losing a sweat over. Even in an amazing season, PK #1 gives you a two point per game advantage over the team with the worst placekicker. Draft well and the randomness of the PK is eliminated.

2009 was a little more respectful of preseason rankings. I went away from ESPN for some variety, and these guys put the kickers into Tiers rather than assign an auction value, with six total tiers:

2009 Kickers. David Akers is the MAN!

Yet again two unranked guys finish Top 5 with four in the Top 10. And this was the most consistent year I reviewed.

Kickers 11-13 put up 116 total, while Nate Kaeding scored 157, a difference of 2.5, which is a big jump from the 2010 & 2011 numbers. Still, the chance of hitting that guy is low. If you drafted Gostkowski as the first kicker off the board, you would have been exactly one point per week better off than unranked Tier 6 scrubs Carpenter or Janikowski. That’s hardly worth the early pick.

It’s worth noting that in the cases of Elam, Hartley, & Folk in 2009, the respective teams employed multiple kickers for a variety of reasons. This may have resulted in better year-end rankings for those kickers, but the results are the results.

And how about the consistency of David Akers in Fantasy Football? He finished 1st in 2011 and 2nd in each of 2010 and 2009. Well done!

On the issue of week-to-week consistency, my theory only holds up slightly. When semi-randomly picking a kicker, I look for the guy who is going to rack up tons of XPs as opposed to lots of field goals. The idea is consistently good offenses will give 40-50+ extra points along with enough field goals to boost all the drives that end in 6 points (for the team) instead of 3 points. Some people prefer the long leg school of thought and get the guys who attempt a dozen kicks over 50 yards during the season, prototypically Sebastian Janikowski.

David Akers, on a really good 49er’s team, and the aforementioned Janikowski, on a mediocre-at-best Raiders squad, finished 1st and 3rd, respectively, in the above league scoring. Here are their weekly scoring profiles:

2011 comparison of two worthless fantasy players

Akers was far more consistent than Janikowski. The Raiders kicker was shut out once and put up a score of 5 or less 4 times. When he was on, though, he put up a handful of double-digit scores. Akers, on the other hand, rarely deviated from a consistent range of 8-16. This is both reliable and productive. But… he was not ranked in the preseason, despite being the #2 kicker in 2009 and 2010, and was valued at $0 in an auction.

I suppose the lesson here is that some kickers are consistently productive, but it’s a complete crapshoot to know who it is. Why do we tolerate this? Why do these guys even get to wear jerseys?

Does having the top kicker have anything to do with winning championships? I presume the answer is no, but I am willing to look into it. As I mentioned above, I am in two leagues and should have 17 years’ worth of data on this, but only one keeps the past rosters available.

#1 PK =/= Title

Only once did the champ in this first league have the best kicker, and that was in 2003, our first year in the league’s current scoring and 12 team formats. I have no reason to believe that it’s no different in my other league.

From this half-assed analysis, I can draw a few conclusions:

1. Preseason kicker rankings have little correlation to final year-end kicker rankings based on actual results, making drafting a kicker strategically as effective as picking one blindly.

2. The difference between the top performing kickers and the mediocre, borderline free agent kickers is nearly negligible, in the range of 1-2 points per game.

3. For some (though not all) kickers, scoring on a weekly basis is sporadic and unpredictable.

4. Having the best kicker, or even a good one, has little to nothing to do with winning a league title.

5. People draft for TD, yardage, etc, not for kicking. If all draft guides and strategy books marginalize kickers by stating that they are a last-pick-only type of player, then why the hell do we even bother with them.

Some traditions need to go. Fantasy football kickers are such a tradition. Kickers suck and take up a valuable roster spot that I can squander on the likes of David Carr, William Green, Tim Rattay, Lamont Brightful, Onterrio Smith, JP Losman, and all the other clowns I’ve had on my pathetic team.

Using anything other than your last pick on a kicker should be a bad beer and possibly a beating with a rubber hose.

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Barbecued Tri-Tip

Wikipedia (and we all know how super-accurate that is) has a lengthy history on the Tri-Tip cut. It comes from the bottom sirloin part of Bossie, and is usually cut into steaks or ground into hamburgers.

Moo

The guy next to us at the recent World Pork Steak Championships made some Tri-Tip and shared it with us, prompting my interest. Plenty of people have blogged tips about it, the sum of which seems to be the K.I.S.S. Rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Flip once, never puncture with a fork, don’t stuff it with things, don’t get cute with seasonings, no marinade, etc.

I set up the Weber 22″ kettle for semi-indirect cooking with a 2/3 coal chimney’s worth of charcoal, as well as some water-soaked pecan wood chips for a little extra flavor.

Grill setup

As that started to smoke, I seasoned the beef with nothing but coarse black pepper and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Tri-Tip, ready for the grill

This particular cut is 2.5 lbs, the largest I could get at Schnucks, so I anticipate a decent amount of cook time. The various BBQ bloggers who have written about this, some claiming to have made this hundreds of times, claim that it takes about 45 minutes on average at semi-direct heat.

It went on the grill, fattier side up, though they did a good job of trimming the meat. We will have baked potatoes and some bratwurst alongside the Tri-Tip.

A super-healthy dinner awaits me

Now would be a good time for a beer. How about some Denver Pale Ale?

Strong hoppy finish, light fruity aroma… do I pick up on some malted hops? A great beer.

I built myself a little patio for the Weber and Big Blue off the side of the house last weekend, turning unsightly unusable space into something a little nicer. It’s pleasant to relax in the shade and enjoy the fruits of your labor with cold beer and the smell of cooking cow flesh.

After 30 minutes, it looks like this:

Coming along nicely

The thermometer says it is only at about 115-120 degrees, so it’s on pace to finish at about an hour. I flipped it and moved it closer to the center of the grill. As the Tri-Tip has cooked, it has bulged in the center and gotten a little narrower.

Finally, after about an hour, the thermometer reads just over 145 degrees.We served it with potatoes, bratwurst, peas, baked beans, and garlic cheese bread. Like I said before: healthy meal.

Plenty of (fatty) protein and starch to go around

My wife and kids are a little intolerant of medium-rare meat, so they can have the edges that are more medium-well, while I take the pink and medium center.

Beef and beer… go well together

You are supposed to carve against the grain, and I think I am a little off of perpendicular. Still, I let it rest for five minutes and sliced hearty pieces off.

I thought it was delicious. With the minimal seasoning, the beef is the star. You don’t have many ribbons of fat because it’s so finely marbleized. No wonder this makes such great hamburger.

Tri-Tip is simple to make, cooks relatively quickly, is fairly affordable (about $6.xx / lb, well-trimmed), and has wide appeal, or at least it did at our table. Next time perhaps we will slice it up a little finer and put it in some fajitas – we had more success with this than with the flank steak we have made on the grill for fajitas.

NB: BBQ potatoes + pecan smoke = major chocolatey flavors on the potato skin. Don’t know why, but it was really surprising and delicious.

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Spam Email

For some unbelievable reason, this message got through the spam filter on two separate Gmail accounts (one for this BBQ site, and the other for the day job law firm site):

Hmmm…. do I expand my brand?

How in the world did the spam filter miss this? Why would someone think having two Simpson____.com websites would make me want a smut site with my name? And, for continuity sake, wouldn’t I want simpsonporn dot com instead of the transversed version? Scammers & spammers are scummy morons.

I respectfully decline, scumbag spammer. All of my smut sites are registered through proxy registrars anyway.

NB: I took the liberty of redacting some rather deplorably-named ad hoc domains at the bottom of the email. You’re welcome.

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Men’s Club Rib Dinner

I am a member of the Our Lady of Providence Parish in South St. Louis County, as evidenced by my Fish Fry post and Facebook ads pointing to the same post.

Last year, the Men’s Club had two serious problems: (1) a broken, dilapidated metal deathtrap of a BBQ pit, and (2) a budget surplus. What better way to fix both problems at once than by buying a very expensive custom BBQ trailer from a Memphis-based company?

BBQ Trailer

We have several BBQ fanatics in the Men’s Club, including one guy who agreed to cook us dinner at the last meeting. We meet the third Thursday of every month for a brief meeting, some dinner, and then poker/beers until (1) we run out of beer, (2) someone wins at poker, (3) the school alarm goes off, (4) any combination of those.

I have been tapped to make dinner for the June 2012 meeting (Hint: 10 pork shoulders for 50 men!). Dinner for the May 2012 meeting was to be about 20 slabs of baby back ribs. This is a good thing.

What’s in the box!?

This evening, what’s in the box is a bunch of charcoal and cherry wood logs. They called them chunks, but these are quartered logs, like something you would put on a back yard fire pit. And, they were not wood soaked.

Firebox

Sadly, I got there late. I thought I was early, but everyone else was way early, so I wound up being late. That put me at the end of the BBQ line.

However, where one line for food was long, another line, this for beer, was short:

Beers

The beer had already been hit hard. Half of Layer One was gone! There is a strong preference to A-B / InBev products in the Men’s Club. I had to make a PBR run when they only had Bud Light a few months ago.

On to the ribs. I consulted with the BBQer. What did he do?

The ribs were coated in a rub of Lawry’s seasoned salt, butcher’s pepper, brown sugar, garlic salt, and onion salt. Presumably after having removed the membrane, the ribs smoked for four hours with the cherry smoke. After smoking, the ribs were (individually?) wrapped in foil with a mixture of beer and Maull’s BBQ sauce for a fifth and final hour of slow cooking, moisturizing, and tenderizing.

Well-rounded meal

Could these be the potatoes like Grandma Simpson used to make? Shitloads of pork grease in them? Sure looks like it.

Slaw with crushed Ramen noodles and some pine nuts in them? WTF is going on here?

Ribs. Eat ’em.

But the ribs are the star here. Last one there means only one serving. They were delectable. Meat came right off the bones, but they were not too tender. I have been criticized (by this BBQ chef) for my overly-tender boiled ribs. To each their own – I love them both.

Terrible meal. I demand a refund.

As you can see, it was awesome. Great work, Paul!

NB: This brings me to an unrelated pet peeve. You’re out to eat, and Mr. Smartass Waiter comes by to a plate that looks like this. You get one of two jackass comments. (1) Did you enjoy the meal? [chuckle], or (2) Well, looks like someone really enjoyed the dinner. I’ve waited and bussed at several restaurants and never said either of those things. Any server who does should be catapulted into a volcano.

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Drink This Beer: Six Row Whale

As is becoming tradition during the first weekend in June, that being the weekend nearest to our wedding anniversary, the wife and I headed out yesterday evening to Art & Air, an outdoor art, music, and food festival in Webster Groves.

The longest line among food trucks or booths was for Milagro Modern Mexican. Having already made our modest art purchases and seen every exhibitor, we decided to bypass that line and just head to the restaurant itself. We had never been and it’s only about a mile from the art show, so why not give it a shot?

While we split some guacamole, Wifey ordered the mahi-mahi and a specialty margarita. I chose the pork shoulder with corn and potatoes, along with a new beer for me: Six Row Whale

5.5…. price, ABV, what?

What is a Whale? A wheat ale, of course. (The waiter had to tell me.)

I’ve had some Six Row beer before, but not the Whale. I am encouraged by the recent proliferation of STL area craft breweries, Six Row among them.

Whale

How nice does that look? Before even taking a sip, I enjoyed the color, haze, and light head of this beer in its tulip glass.

It has a light honey aroma that’s very inviting. Whatever hops they use gives the beer a fruity flavor with minimal bitterness, while providing a crisp & fresh flavor profile. Only after swallowing each sip do you get the hoppy flavor on your tongue, and even that is fairly subtle. I was very impressed with the balance and drinkability, impressed enough to have a second when my entree arrived. Incidentally, they brought me the wrong entree (marlin), which was delicious, and then right entree (shoulder) which was even better. We will be back, Milagro.

In addition to encouraging you to go eat dinner (or Sunday brunch) at Milagro in Webster Groves, when it comes to Six Row Whale: Drink This Beer

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