Tag Archives: Barbeque

BBQ Joint Review Follow Up: Sugarfire Smokehouse

Fifteen years ago today I was a college sophomore, and my roommate and I (and two other guys) were initiated into our social fraternity. He and I live in STL and try to get together for lunch / dinner / beer / etc. every November 20th. Today it was a return to SugarFire Smokehouse.

Well-written menu

Well-written menu

Bright red posterboard grabbed my attention. The food description kept it.

One side? My ass. I’ll be having the Firewalker, plus the brisket chili (oh my god) AND an order of the polenta cakes with pork belly and cheddar (oh my flippin god).

Lunch

Lunch. EPIC lunch.

Brisket Chili – Wonder of wonders. I need to make this. Peppers, onions, huge chunks and shreds of brisket, thin sauce, chickpeas(?), a bunch of other great stuff.

Polenta Cakes – With cheddar and pork belly. Oodles of pork belly chunks, and well-mingled cheesiness. I love polenta, and this was awesome.

Firewalker – Pepper jack gravy is a new thing for me. So are flaming hot cheetos onion rings. All together, mushed with bread and hot sauce and, oh yeah, a load of pulled pork. It was as messy and gluttonous and epic as you might think. Not healthy. Worth every calorie.

Well played, SugarFire.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Stuffed Smoked Wrapped Boneless Beef Short Ribs

Having not experimented with anything off the cuff recently, an affordable package of boneless beef short ribs adjacent in the store to the brisket I was planning to smoke anyway presented me with an opportunity.

Each rather large short rib, slightly smaller than my clenched fist, was lightly rolled with a rub comprising: brown sugar, paprika, garlic salt, seasoned salt, powdered sage, cayenne pepper, ground coffee, and coarse black pepper.

Those and the three medium sized brisket pieces (having received the same treatment) were put on the 55 gallon drum smoker, fat sides up, with ample hickory smoke for seven hours at about 190-200 Fahrenheit.

Big Blue back in action!

Big Blue back in action!

I've got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

I’ve got all day to smoke these. On the grill at 8am!

Hours and hours later (7, to be exact), and a few beers later (not quite 7), the ribs had smoked thoroughly.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Brisket looks pretty good, too.

Not even close to done, though

Not even close to done, though

A BBQ ace told me to cook beef with the fat up so as to continuously baste the meat. I never flipped them or the brisket pieces, yet each time I checked on the meat or added coals and wood, it still looked damp from the molten beef fat softening and oozing over the sides of the flesh.

Having learned from my past mistakes, I eased up on both the amount of brown sugar in the rub (by ratio) and the amount of rub total on the meat. This left less char and permitted more smoke penetration.

I pulled the short ribs to let them rest for about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Why rest? So that the hot and excited juices don’t escape and dry out the meat!

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Resting. Exhausted from a long day of smoking.

Once relaxed, the ribs were sliced substantially in half, leaving a hinge at the back.

Tender; smells great

Tender; smells great

I had a half carton of blue cheese left over from some steak salad I had made a few days before, and I put half of my remainder inside each short rib.

Feeling stuffed...

Feeling stuffed…

And since I like to smoke a bunch of bacon as a brisket sandwich topping, why not wrap each of these with three large thick cut slices of pork bacon. Sorry to my Hebrew readership, but this went from unkosher to exceptionally unkosher in just minutes.

Oy vey

Oy vey

Back on the UDS for two more hours of hickory smoke at about 200 degrees.

The finished product is worth the fuss.

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

9+ hours of effort. Will it be worth it?

Each short rib gave me 3 or 4 generous slices for the in-law family pre-JV football dinner.

Yes, it was worth it!

Yes, it was worth it!

The beef was incredibly tender and had solid smoke color penetration. The blue cheese was present in just the right amount. Unfortunately, the bacon didn’t quite crisp, but no one complained. My father in law said, “Simpson, you should enter this in a BBQ contest. It was great.” As I basked in this compliment, he added, “Although I do love anything with cheese in it.” I’ll take what I can get.

This was a super-simple recipe. Anyone can make this if you have all damn day to cook. Luckily I could work from home that day and I have a large upright smoker. Forgiving that, you could probably make this on a Weber kettle with a keen eye towards temperature control.  Regardless, simple technique and ingredients made a succulent experiment.

Tagged , , , , , ,

BBQ Joint Review: Gobble Stop Smokehouse

If you take one thing away from this BBQ Joint Review, make it this: You absolutely need to go to this place and try a “Turkey Rib” (which is not really a rib, but I’ll explain that later.) Flat out the best turkey I’ve ever had, including all preparation methods. I was blown away.

Third on my hitlist of relatively new BBQ places that need reviewing, per the STL P-D, is Gobble Stop Smokehouse in St. Louis County on Olive, near Fee Fee. An unassuming facade used by a prior (unsuccessful, apparently) smokehouse, in the midst of a Korean-filled strip mall.

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

Somewhat inconspicuous and inauspicious

I phoned my father to see if he wanted to duck out of work (we’re both self-employed) to hit this poultry-only BBQ spot.

Managers usually have their hair a little better kept.

It’s hot enough for this so-called iced cream

Their menu did not have a hint of cow or pork or goat or non-winged four-legged animal. All bird – very ambitious.

As someone who BBQs often, I can tell you that making poultry well is hard. It’s lean, so it can dry out. The dark and white meats cook distinctly. Seasoning can be tough with the skin and the depth of the meat. Making good turkey or chicken on the BBQ shows skill. I’m still working on it, and it’s a goal for me.

Many options from few choices

Many options from few choices

I saw an article in the Riverfront Times that said that I needed to order the Turkey Tips, so I did. I added an unsweetened tea and side of beans (home made!). Why not toss in an a la carte turkey rib. This is not a rib, though. It’s a part of the turkey breast carved from the scapula of the bird.

Pops went with the pulled chicken sandwich, along with onion rings, iced tea, and his own turkey rib. (Again… not a rib.)

Looks great!

Looks great!

The owner served us and advised us on the lunch options. Based on the RFT recommendation, I was psyched to get the turkey tips. I’m a zealot for thigh meat (both chicken and turkey), so it seemed like a good choice. Basically it’s like pork tips but poultry. He warned me that each sauce-coated nugget was part gristle and part meat.

From a textual point of view, I wasn’t psyched about sticking a gristle-filled nugget into my mouth to chew off the tasty bits, so I tackled these one at a time with a fork and knife. One of my gripes about this place is the plastic silverware. I get it, as a former professional dishwasher, that the cutlery is nice and disposable, but the turkey tips were hard to navigate with flimsy plastic forks and knives.

With some effort, though, each nugget produced at least a bite or two of smoky, hyper-tender bird. The sauce was thick, sticky, spicy and incredibly wonderful. The meat was juicy and skillfully made. I really enjoyed it, despite the extra work. In the future, I probably pass on this one, given all the work, but I’ve never had anything quite like this before. Tasty tasty turkey.

The best choice I made, though, was getting a turkey rib. What an amazing, succulent, tender, smoky, sticky piece of turkey meat. I was shocked. Literally, though this meat had bite, but fell cleanly off the bone. Solid smoke lines, great tenderness, solid sauce, excellent texture. I was blown away by the turkey ribs, which is a low calorie low cholesterol way to down BBQ and still feel like you’re crushing ribs. A thin slab of bone was all that remained.

This looks big, but it's flat

This looks big, but it’s flat

It’s a genius move, but you still have to do it perfectly. These guys did just that. The sauce was such an awesome pairing with the tender smoked meat. Really a surprising entree. My father ordered one a la carte as well and he decided, based solely on that sample, to come back six hours later for takeout dinner for him and my mother. She told me how much she liked it, too – no shock to me.

Dad’s lunch was also wonderful. He grabbed the pulled chicken sandwich, with a side of onion rings.

Sorry for the blur

Sorry for the blur

Dad’s chicken was really good. It seemed like the chicken was more chunked pieces than shreds. Moist, tender. Hard to beat BBQ good enough to be served without any sauce (served on the side). There was a taste in the seasoning that I was struggling to pick up on… I swear it was some kind of Doritos nacho-y seasoning on the chicken. Really nice chicken, a great lunch.

Onion rings… pedestrian. Thick breading, crispy coating, but probably came from a bag. Not bad but unremarkable.

Beans were great. I got a nice pepper and cumin flavor, with a serious peppery spice aftertaste. Nice thick sauce and tender beans. Great appearance with good red pepper bits throughout. Excellent, particularly if they cooked them without any pork or beef. Getting a nice hearty flavor with no pork grease can be a trick. I’m very curious how these were made.

The place was clean and quaint, and the owner was personable and polite. What’s not to love about Gobble Stop. I tried to buy a cookie after our late lunch… he gave me a lemon sugar cookie on the house. Great cookie. Moist, without any superfluous powdered or crystallized sugar on it.

I 100% guarantee that I’m returning to Gobble Stop Smokehouse. Epic meat. Wonderful service and atmosphere. You don’t always need to eat pig or cow to get top notch BBQ, and Gobble Stop is proof.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Ugly Drum Smoker

By far my most visited and commented blog post is how to turn a 55 gallon drum into a smoker. I made another one.

Unsightly industrial refuse

Unsightly industrial refuse

Yes, my father again presented me with a 55 gallon steel drum. It contained non-toxic, FDA-approved blue powder pigment that was used on food packaging.

This time, though, I didn’t have a spare Weber 22″ dome cover. What I did have, though, was the original flat lid. This resulted in some design changes. Go to the original post (linked above) for the specifics (bolt sizes, hole sizes, measurements, ball valves for ventilation, etc.). This post really only emphasizes my changes from that earlier design.

First, as usual, I scrubbed the holy hell out of the inside of the drum with 409 cleanser and some CLR and a bunch of brillo pads. Then it was fired out to try and clean it further. Unlike last time, I am NOT going to paint the inside of the drum with Rustoleum High Heat, since that goes against the manufacturer instructions. Instead I am going to clean it thoroughly and cure it with a long hot burn after rubbing the entire guts with vegetable oil.

Fairly clean

Fairly clean

Before we go further, it’s disclaimer time:

If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Toxic or Rat Poison on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell, grow a few more ears, or your genitals become inoperable, then you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

One of the first things I did, as can be seen in the above photos, was add two chimneys to the flat lid. The drum lid had two threaded holes with plugs in them. The plugs are called bungs and the holes are bung holes.

I wanted a piece of 6″ pipe to fit into my bung hole… uh, let me rephrase that… I went to a plumber supply store to buy two 6″ long pipes, one each at 3/4″ and 2″ in diameter, to screw into the threaded holes on the smoker lid. I bought a ball valve for the 3/4″ chimney for about $5 or $6. The 2″ ball valve is a whopping $45+ and that’s with a phony plumbers’ union discount they were willing to give me! No thanks – I’ll invert an old ravioli can onto the 6″ chimney.

Once cleaned, I used the steel drum drill bit to perforate the hull of my new smoker for all the hardware I planned to bolt on, including on the lid.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Specialty tools cost $$$!

Burrs

Burrs

The drilling left jagged steel burrs on the interior of the drum. I have big washers that I plan to bolt over these, so no need to remove them. You could get a Dremel tool and cut them off, but I didn’t bother.

Once all the holes were drilled, I painted the entire exterior with Safety Red paint from Rustoleum.

Painted!

Painted!

It took a few coats using a foam roller, but the whole thing took less than a quart of paint. Once dry (and it took a little while), I bolted on all the hardware.

A new feature this time was my fancypants bottle opener.

Practical

Practical

In hindsight, it might be dangerous to try and open a chilled bottled beer on a hot metal opener like this. I’ll keep you posted if I injure myself. It’s highly likely.

Having a flat lid meant less clearance between the grill surface and the inner portion of the grill lid. That meant lowering the grill support bolt holes several inches to allow larger meats (like a couple pork shoulders or a turkey) to be smoked.

Grill grate

Grill grate

This means the food is closer to the fire and the fire / smoke needs to be managed more carefully.

The lid received a metal handle, and I painted the chimneys (but for the ball valve).

Completed lid

Completed lid

The rest of the assembly is nearly identical to the earlier Big Blue model. The interior coal cage is pretty much the same.

Coal Cage

Coal Cage

I like the red color. It’s distinct and makes it visible to thieves in the country house where we left it. There’s nothing ugly about this Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS).

Home

Home

Once completed, I lubed the entire inside as well as the coal cage and grill grates with vegetable oil and lit a hot fire to cure the whole thing. I’m probably cooking something on it this weekend. The next UDS will be a little different… something my kid’s been asking me about for a while. Stay tuned.

Tagged , , , , ,

BBQ Joint Review: Sugarfire Smokehouse

When the STL Post-Dispatch published a list of the 5 new BBQ joints that need visiting, I treated that as a checklist. I’ve selflessly hit up and reviewed Hendrick’s and took an off-the-list detour to PM BBQ. The third BBQ Joint on my agenda is Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Quite a bit of hype to live up to under this sign

Apparently this place is owned by the same people who own Cyrano’s, the site (when on Big Bend near Clayton) of many many high school dates and more recently the site (now in Webster Groves) of many many after hours drinks with my wife.

I’ve come by here with my father a couple times to see a line out the door and nowhere to park, so we would just go across the street to Chevy’s. Not today! I’ve brought with me two very discerning and distinct palates: Mike, a zealot for Texas BBQ who has been unimpressed with STL BBQ to date, and Randy, a Reform Jewish guy who keeps fairly kosher.

We got to the front door and didn’t move much further. The sign says 15 minute wait from here.

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

Looks like a bunch of happy customers

iPhone in hand, I followed the Sugarfire Twitter accounts…

... and you can follow me at @dtsjr

… and you can follow me at @dtsjr

On the way to our cafeteria-style BBQ line, I noticed the soda fountain is stocked only with Excel Bottling beverages, including the southern Illinois treat Ski.

Made with pure can sugar

Made with pure can sugar

I’m an unsweetened tea man, myself, so I passed on this pure cane sugar goodness. Apparently Ski and bourbon is a specialty drink in SW IL.

Just past the ice cold sodies? Beer.

More frosty beverages... too bad this is a business-y lunch

More frosty beverages… too bad this is a business-y lunch

Maybe it’s all the time I spent there in law school instead of studying (hence my shitty grades), but Morgan Street Brewery has a special place in my heart. And now they can beer. YES.

On to the cafeteria line of meaty godliness.

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

I got the stink eye from a line server as I clicked away

More truly uninteresting photos

More truly uninteresting photos

I realize now that these photos add nothing to this blog post. Oh well. It’s cafeteria style. You get your drinks, then walk up and tell the guy what meat you want, then the next guy your sides. Pretty simple. Pickled peppers, pickles, onions, etc. is waiting at the end of the line. Sauce on the table.

More beers!

More beers!

Hey, they serve cans of Stag?! More win from this place. Everyone’s grandpa or great grandpa drank Stag, but no one you know drinks it today. I’ve bought it for a fishing trip, but that’s about it.

On to the actual food.

What is this a picture of, exactly?

What is this a picture of, exactly?

This primo blurtastic picture of brisket was intended to reveal that the fat cap is left on the beef while smoked and cooked, and you would see a nice modest smoke ring. My kosher friend LOVED the brisket, and he’s been raised on Kohn’s brisket. He added the only non-cheezy non-pork sides of fries and green beans. He was quite satisfied.

My other dining companion got something called the Big Muddy:

The Big Muddy

The Big Muddy

This testament to gluttony comprised smoked brisket and sausage piled high on a bun with slaw and sauce. He added some fried artichokes as an appetizer. As a Texas resident for 10+ years, he said that Sugarfire was finally a BBQ place worthy of his admiration, and he said is was far better than Hendricks. Woah… that’s quite the assessment. He phoned his wife soon thereafter to plan a family trip back to Sugarfire, and he lives in Wildwood!

I kept it simple. Half slab baby back ribs, beans, slaw, iced tea… something called crack pie.

Amazeballs

Amazeballs

The 1/2 slab comes with two sides and a fountain drink for $14. I decided to spring for the crack pie (we’ll get to that later) for a whopping $5. Better be worth it.

Smoked goodness

Smoked goodness

Ribs: These are fairly lean-looking for babyback ribs, but looks can be deceiving. They are just as succulent as baby backs are supposed to be. As hoped, they are tender but with a nice bite. I’d say slightly less tender than Hendrick’s (having just eaten there last week, I can say that with some certainty), but they come cleanly off the bone as eaten. You get the nice bite mark and pull when you gnash into a good hunk of rib meat.

In order, I pick up salt then pepper then sugar. There is a deep smoke ring, much further into the meat cross-section than other places I’ve tried recently. That adds to the very rich smoky flavor.

Literally, these are finger-licking ribs. There’s a sticky but not moist rub on the exterior of the ribs. It’s fairly salty but has a nice spicy finish and really adds a nice unique profile to the meat. It’s a bold move for sure – you are adding intense flavors to smoked meat that took lots of time and energy and skill to produce, but it works well. Watch out beard and mustache owners (like me). This will hang around your facial hair.

Beans: Mild spice, good tenderness. Great rich sauce with a good pepper flavor instead of pepper heat. They were restrained on the onion. I didn’t see any pork bits, so these are stand alone beans worthy of another order in the future.

Slaw: Very rich sauce but not thick. Good creaminess, but there’s nothing distinct about it besides the richness of the sauce and the crispiness of the veggies. No salt or pepper or celery seed, at least not in appreciable levels. Still quite delicious, but not wildly distinctive. A good accompaniment to the ribs.

Sauce: Didn’t even touch it. The labels said Coffee, Black Cherry, TX47 (wtf?), and other notations, but these ribs needed zero sauce. That would have been an abomination to put sauce on them. Solid ribs.

Crack Pie: Though Tyrone Biggums might have been disappointed with what he got after placing his order, but he would have liked this pie. Imagine a gooey butter pie made with molasses and a thick crumbly crust. I found it to be a little too sweet for me, and not worth the $5, but it was still pretty doggone good. The Texas BBQ lover messily devoured his with zeal.

This was a very successful business lunch. I’m going to deduct my bill, and I finally managed to sample this BBQ. Absolutely worth a return trip, and the ribs were outstanding. I’d venture to say that these might be the best ribs in town, but I need to return to Pappy’s soon to confirm. I strongly recommend you get to Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Tagged , , , ,

Smoked Cod Tacos

Cold and raining?! Ain’t got no time for that. It’s taco night.

A little crapola weather can't keep me down

A little crapola weather can’t keep me down

It doesn’t have to be a Friday in Lent to enjoy fish at the end of the work week.

Fish tacos are quick and easy. Clean flavors, loaded with lean protein, and widely-appealing.

I put a couple cod filets from Schnuck’s on a water-soaked cedar plank, and gave each a sprinkle of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and a light dusting of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix.

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

Alaskan Cod makes good tacos

By “light dusting” I really meant light dusting. That taco mix can be overpowering, and I want to taste the fish and the smoke. The taco mix is really meant to be a complement to the taco theme of the meal.

Instead of quickly cooking the fish by using the plank to steam and smoke the fish, I am going to let the cedar plank provide a clean platform for cooking and only some moderate smokiness. I have in the past put planked fish over semi-direct heat and let the plank char. Not this time.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I'll find out.

How are smoked jalapenos? I guess I’ll find out.

Instead, I offset the fish to completely indirect cooking and put a few chunks of dry mesquite wood on the coals.

After about 45 minutes, the fish was done and looked pretty amazing.

Smoke color looks great!

Smoke color looks great!

For service, I warmed some flour tortillas and made small 5 bite tacos out of the fish, along with some black beans, taco cheese, cilantro, light sour cream, and some amazingly awesome Frontera tomatillo salsa. Finish with 1/8 lime drizzled over the plate.

To warm but not toast the tortillas, I just tossed some foil over the fire and quickly flipped them around until each was ready. I just stacked them up and wrapped the pile in that same foil until service.

They taste as good as they look

They taste as good as they look

These were spectacular and the entire thing took less than an hour from start to mouth. The rich smokiness of the wood melded with the flaky fish. Cod can be oily and dry, but these morsels were far from it. Amazingly delicious.

Next time, I’ll pass on the black beans because their flavor rose up a little more than I wanted to interrupt the fish. One decent-sized filet made three heaping tacos.

Simple, easy, tasty: Three things that make this dish a winner.

Tagged , ,

Dreams Do Come True

You’re undoubtedly familiar with this item:

Many McCalories

Many McCalories

I’m not much of a McDonald’s fan, unless we’re in a pinch on a long road trip and low on options. Despite the utterly non-realistic and highly deceptive name McRib, I strongly doubt any actual pork rib meat makes it into this sandwich. Let’s remediate that atrocity.

Start with some baby back pork ribs, smoked for four hours with apple wood. Pre-smoke, I added a bunch of brown sugar, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, etc. rub and removed the concave membrane.

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

After four hours of smoke, the ribs were set for a three hour tenderizing foil wrap, enveloped in some PBR and Pappy’s BBQ sauce.

Well on the way to glory!

Well on the way to glory!

Finally, I let the unwrapped ribs rest for about 10 minutes. I flipped it over onto the convex side and gently popped the rib bones out of the very tended pork rib slab.

The boneless sheet of rib meat went on to a sourdough hoagie that had been loaded on both halves with Gates BBQ sauce. I diced half a sweet onion, and layered on some lengthwise-cut dill pickles.

If this doesn't win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don't know what will.

If this doesn’t win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don’t know what will.

Fold. Cut. Consume.

(gasp!)

(gasp!)

It was exceptionally messy and delicious.

I plan some variations in the future. Perhaps I’ll toast the bread, add some cheese, and maybe a few scoops of slaw on top of the pickles. Who can say. I’ll let my conscience decide.

Messily devour

Messily devour

I should have made more than one sandwich – it went fast.

No, it’s not a McRib. It’s infinitely better. If you’re down with shoulder, heart, and tripe reprocessed into meaty loaves that are shipped to McDonald’s and re-heated by some teenager who flunked the Taco Bell entrance exam, doused in over-sweet sauce from a plastic jug on a mass-produced bun… power to you.

If, instead, you want real rib meat on your sandwich… , not a McRib but a RealRib, then give this a try. Worth the effort for sure.

Tagged , ,

Moo Moo on the BBQ

Bluebell the Cow… remember her?

Moo?

Moo?

Bluebell was kind enough in her passing to leave me a special cut of beef called the Brisket. Thanks!

Brisket is merely one of many delicious Hunks O’ Cow

Besides the two rib steaks we tried on a cedar planked fish night, the brisket is my first real beef treat from Bluebell. It’s a favorite of mine, and I’m super excited to sample some local grass fed beef.

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

Bluebell beginning her journey to my tummy

I started the brisket not with my usual mustard-based paste, but with something a little milder that will let me taste the grassiness and richness of the beef. The rub was simple: brown sugar, garlic salt, italian seasonings, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

The brisket began fat side down to try and drip off a few extra fatty bits, though the rural butcher did a really good job of trimming the fat. If I wanted, to baste it instead, perhaps the fat would begin on the upside.

After four-ish hours of smoking indirectly in the Weber 22″ kettle with a bunch of cherry wood chunks, the brisket was ready for its foil wrap.

Smoky goodness!

Smoky goodness!

My son actually wants the family to open a BBQ restaurant, and for us to call it Moo Moo on the BBQ. That’s certainly not happening, but he gave me a clever title. The simple wonders of the mind of a 6 year old.

Foil, do your magic

Foil, do your magic

Within the foil, all over the brisket, is some mild Kansas City style BBQ sauce and a little dash of PBR for steaming and tenderizing. It needed about three more hours, with some 180 degree rotations for good measure, and a probe thermometer inserted.

Though the meat was technically “done” a couple hours into the smoking when it reached 150-ish, the foil wrap brought the meat to a steady 190-ish for the final hour or so.

For good measure, since I am making big brisket sandwiches, I smoked a pound of bacon.

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Nearly 2/3 made it inside!

Bacon finished, I prepared to assemble my brisket sandwiches. I have some whole wheat buns, provolone cheese, pickles, the aforementioned bacon, and some spicy BBQ sauce I bought from Ace Hardware that morning when I had to buy a toilet auger (don’t ask; total child-related nightmare).

First, the brisket had to rest for at least ten minutes. The muscle had to relax, and all the excited beef juices needed to remain in the tissue when I cut the meat, instead of spilling all over the cutting board.

Voila!

Voila!

I’ll state with a little hubris that I am getting pretty good at making brisket on the grill, and this might be my best one yet. Yes, you could credit the cow and/or cattle farmer. And, yes, this would probably pale in comparison to some actual competitive and/or professional brisket, but give me this little victory.

It was delicious, for the record. Thanks, Bluebell (and mom, for the XMas gift)!

Tagged , ,

Marinade Injected Pork Shoulder

Experimentation is at the heart of this blog, or at least as close to the heart as beer and meat. I’ve never used a marinade injector before, but I’ve heard good things.

I’m now officially a hypodermic needle user.

Don't share this needle

Don’t share this needle

Lots of BBQ blogs espouse their own special marinades. Most include lots of liquid, with saltiness, sweetness, some kind of liquor or beer or wine, and often some pureed spices and perhaps fruitiness (like juice).

I went simple: PBR and some honey apple BBQ glaze my wife bought for me on impulse. I made a 50/50 mixture and liberally injected the shoulder all over from all angles – down to the bone, through the fat, along the sides, through the top… everywhere. I also consumed the rest of that PBR, then several others.

As I injected, bulbous sections of pork protruded. Each puncture wound oozed marinade, some more than others. In all, I injected the hell out of this meat. This butt got stabbed more times than a [insert horribly tasteless joke here].

Onto that went a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, seasoned salt, & Italian seasonings.

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

And the whole thing went on a Weber 22.5″ kettle over indirect heat with cherry wood chunks. I put a thermometer probe through an onion near the meat to get an idea of the grill temperature. Even a conservative amount of coals gave me a hot grill, at or near 300 degrees. That’s a full 100 degrees higher than my typical drum smoker runs.

The answer to "What, what, in the butt?" is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer

The answer to “What, what, in the butt?” is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer, and a thermometer probe

About 3-4 hours later (who can say with any specificity – it was an 18 pack of PBR), the shoulder was foil wrapped with some BBQ sauce and a sprinkle of some more beer.

Percolating pork

Percolating pork

What a wonderful smell comes from a wrapped pork shoulder. Lots of bubbling, cracking going on in there.

Finally, a few more hours later, perhaps after 7 total, I pulled the meat off the grill and opened it to let it rest.

The fruits of my labor

The fruits of my labor

The end result, as usual, looks wonderful. Great smell & color. I’m excited.

What I notice in trying to shred the shoulder was that the meat was separating in chunks rather than typical shreds. I figure what happened was all the injected moisture boiled and steamed and percolated within the meat, which not only tenderized, moistened, and flavored the flesh itself, but also broke down fat and connective tissue. This lets the meat break into hunks of succulent sweet pork, instead of shreddings.

Chunks of shredded pork

Chunks of shredded pork

It was delectable! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and I’m definitely making this again. Flavor injection is part of the BBQ regular rotation. Yes, I’m now a habitual needle user.

Leftovers? BBQ pork pizza the next day.

Enjoy the same meat twice

Enjoy the same meat twice

Tagged , ,

BBQ Baked Beans

Incomplete Truth: I won a BBQ competition this past Saturday

More Complete Truth, But Missing Some Context: I won first place in BBQ Baked Beans and fourth in BBQ Ribs at the annual parish Rib Run event.

Reality: I won first place in BBQ Baked Beans in a field of four competitors, and fourth in BBQ Ribs in a field of eight. The other beans were… not good. The guy who finished fifth in ribs had never made them before.

Yes, last Saturday was the annual OLP Rib Run. You start with a 5K in the morning (and I mean the royal “you”… I sure as shit didn’t run a 5K) and then a rib and bean competition the rest of the day.

Incidentally, I’d like to point out that this is the very same event that I won two years ago by parboiling my ribs. I’ve learned the error of my ways and set out to make actual competition-style St. Louis cut ribs. I have to say that they were really good, though I could have sauced them a little more. The tenderness was nearly perfect and the seasoning was spot on. I didn’t have much of a smoke line and I failed to garnish my box. The first place guy is a pro BBQer; second place is a caterer who baked her ribs in an oven (don’t get me started on that); and, third place was a very skilled and experienced rib BBQer.

Who did I beat? Well, let’s see. Fifth place went to a guy who had literally never made ribs before. He showed up at 12:30pm with an 18″ Weber kettle and a rib rack in it’s original packaging… a rib rack too big for his grill. He wound up setting the lid on the rack and wrapping the kettle in a column of foil to get a seal. Seventh place went to a guy who made a sauce out of blueberry jam, chipotles and stout beer. Sounds interesting, but the judges didn’t seem to like it.

So fourth place is unimpressive given the field. Plus, adding insult to injury, over a dozen people came by asking about or looking to get a sample of the apple parboiled ribs that I no longer make for competitions. Lots of disappointment.

On to the beans! I started with olive oil, half a chopped white onion, and minced garlic in a sauce pot over hot coals.

A good start to many dishes!

Once that got nice and brown, in went a chopped pound of uncooked hickory smoked bacon.

 

Bacon makes everything better

I learned from prior bean experiences that you don’t need a heavy hand with the brown sugar. These beans have a similar beginning to my brussels sprouts.

Once this got brown and the bacon began to crisp, I added red beans along with two PBRs for a reducing liquid. The prior night, I water-soaked a dry pound of red beans and changed out the water a few times, careful to rinse out any gunk.

Beans beginning their magical journey

At this point, I mixed in about a 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon or two of full flavor molasses, and a small squeeze of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.

Every 15-20 minutes, this concoction needed a good stirring. I didn’t want the beans to burn and I wanted even saturation of the beans. As needed, several more PBRs were added. The fire was maintained a few times with fresh coals as well.

In parallel to these beans, I happened to make a massive 6-7 lb. brisket on the smoker. Before foil wrapping it, after four hours of smoking, I carved off the burnt ends from three sides, chopped them up, and tossed them in the beans as well.

Eventually, the beans thickened and darkened.

Finished product, worthy of beating inferior competition beans

For service, we were each given six little plastic ramekins and lids. I placed a generous slice of brisket along the side and bottom and a scoop of beans on top.

In the space next to me, where the eventual rib winner was cooking, I wandered over to spy on my competition’s beans. This guy had four pork shoulder bones, pork shoulder meat, carrots, celery, onion and stock all reducing in a cast iron dutch oven over a propane flame. He mixed in some navy beans and tons of seasoning. The aromas were unreal, and I didn’t feel very good about winning next to him.

However, he had a little problem. His son had gone to New Orleans and returned with some local seasonings, spices, rubs, etc. for his father. Maybe seven or eight tablespoons of some kind of seasoning went into the beans. We all sampled it and… woah. About the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted. In a panic, he added cubed potatoes to soak up the salt, but it was too late. The beans were hyper-salty and I could only manage a few bites. This guy came in second.

Third place? A team that literally opened two cans of Bush’s Baked Beans and poured them into an aluminum pan on the grill. I can’t even fathom what the fourth (and last) place team did.

So, pretty much by default, I won this trophy.

Not worth bragging about after all

I took the photo from a down angle and close up to make it look more impressive, though it’s kind of pathetic given the context of how I won.

On the plus side, the parish made some money and I spent the day grilling, eating, and drinking beer with a bunch of guys who share my passion for grilling, eating, and drinking beer. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: