Well, it seems like Lakeside Smokers must have discovered something in their off-season test kitchen. Smoke signals from the MA border are saying that in an attempt to keep the recipes secret Mike Boisvert has proposed to Kris Eastman… and she said yes. Congratulations to both…
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
The first thing we needed was a cooker. I had pretty much decided on an upright, box type, charcoal burner. I found as I poked around for info that there are as many opinions about cookers and fuels as there are cooks. Many are very passionate about the topic to the point of accusing others of being illegal, or at the very least, “not really BBQing”.
The stick burners use mainly wood for fuel, many opting for the offset or horizontal type units. It is just my opinion, but it always seems to me that the wood burning guys are always fooling with their cookers to maintain a steady temperature. Looks like a lot of work to me but it appears that those fellows are enjoying playing with the fire.
Pellet burners or pellet poopers as they are known, use wood pellets of various flavors added to the firebox with an auger type setup. The pellets are similar to those burned in home pellet stoves. You also have folks that use ceramic cookers like the Big Green Egg. These cookers look very interesting, but to me, they would present a transportation problem to and from contests.
I have observed many spirited discussions during my time spent on BBQ forums as to the pros and cons of these and many other types of cookers. My personal thought is no matter what cooker you choose, the important thing is to learn the unit and how it cooks, with consideration given to what you as a cook want to do with the unit. I was looking for something that would hold a fire with not a lot of tending to allow for at least a couple of hours of sleep at a contest. Ease of transportation was also a factor I needed to take into account, as well as space to be able to hold all of the meat we would need to cook for a BBQ contest. A secondary consideration was the use of the cooker for some of the catering gigs that I was beginning to pick up.
I had a long running post on several BBQ forums looking for a used Backwoods Competitor. I had a few responses, but most of the time they were too far away. Once I nearly had one bought, but the seller changed his mind at the last minute. One thing I noticed during my search, folks do not part with their Backwoods cookers very often, which must tell you something.
At one point, I was considering a Caldera Del Fuego. It is made by the BB Guru guys. I called the shop and contacted Shotgun Fred Pirkle. I spoke at length with him about the Del Fuego and the Tall Boy another model made by his company. After passing on the used Del Fuego and considering the weight of the Competitor, I thought about ordering a Tall Boy. A local BBQ store, Ribinit, was a dealer for Freds products and would lend me a Tall boy for a test cook. I made the arrangements and picked up the cooker for a test drive.
After reading the manual and the information on the web site I was ready to go. I lit up the charcoal pan, tossed in the pork butt, and let the smoke roll. With a few minor adjustments, the cook went off well and I was pleased with the performance of the cooker. The best part was the weight of the cooker, the Tall Boy weighed in at 85 lbs while the Competitor was around 350 lbs. This would make a big difference in the ease that the unit moved. At this time, I still had not decided on how we were going to move the team and equipment to the contests. A 350 lb cooker would require some thought on transportation issues. With all this in mind, and the huge clock on the wall ticking towards springtime I went ahead in late January 2007 and ordered a new Caldera Tall Boy, this unit came with the BBQ Guru and the larger firebox that I wanted.
The Guru is a system designed and sold by the BBQ Guru guys that also make the Tall Boy cooker. It is a temperature control system used to maintain a consistent, steady and long burn from your fuel source. Just what the Doctor ordered. The Guru team have made their units adaptable to many makes and designs of cookers and they are becoming increasingly poplar on the BBQ circuit.
By early February, I got the call from Fred that the cooker was ready. Mike and I drove up to the BBQ Guru in Warminster PA to pick up the cooker. When we arrived, Fred and BBQ Bob Trudnak greeted us as they both spend time going over the cooker and its operation and answering any question that we had. We listened about the cookers functions and nibbled on jerky made by Fred in his Tall Boy. After purchasing several needed extras and saying our goodbyes and thanks to Fred and Bob, Mike and I were south bound with the new cooker in the back of the Tahoe, I could not wait to fire it up.
Throughout the winter and into early spring I was making lists and checking them twice. Trying to gather up what I thought I would need to enter a competition. I had an enclosed trailer that we were using to haul goose decoys around in, that would work as a cook trailer. Things were coming together. All the while, I was cooking whenever I could on the new Tall Boy. I was getting a pretty long and consistent burn, although, I still had to fiddle with it at times.
As spring approached, I looked over the event list and tried to figure what contests we would enter for the upcoming season. A new contest in Landover Maryland in May looked like a great starter contest for our team. The location was close, about an hours drive, this would give us a good chance for a shake down run. The Bel Air BBQ Bash was a local contest, about 15 minutes from base, so we would try and enter here. New Holland was a lot of fun, but hard to get in, we applied, and were put on the waiting list. I had read many good things about the contest at Dover Delaware, this would be in October and be a good way to end our first season of competition. The season was set, we would cook four contests and see what happens, if nothing else, we would get together 4 times over the summer and have a little fun! I could not wait.
In early spring, Mike and I traveled up to Meadow Creek BBQ in New Holland to attend the KCBS judging class. We wanted to see what exactly the judges were looking for when they taste our food and we hoped to learn some of the contest rules. The folks at Meadow Creek did a great job with the class and the KCBS reps explained the process in detail. When we left, both Mike and I were certified KCBS judges. We both said that we would like to judge a contest at some time in the future.
Steve and his Dad were cooking in the contest in Salisbury Maryland in April and he said I could tag along. He also offered to let me cook the chefs’ choice contest on Friday night. The weekend for the contest arrived and I loaded my truck with all the necessities and headed to Salisbury. At least this time I knew what to expect and planned accordingly, sleeping bag, pillow, Ibuprofen, etc. I planned to cook BBQ shrimp for the Friday night contest and would use the turn in box provided. Steve let me go to the cooks meeting in his place and pick up the boxes.
As the chefs’ choice turn in time approached, I could see some of the other teams carrying platters and fancy plates towards the judges tent, wow, my 24 BBQed shrimp in a bed of lettuce was in serious trouble. Team IQUE was the winner with a submission of crab cake and bacon wrapped filet mignon on a huge serving platter, mark that down as another lesson learned.
I helped Steve with the regular prep work and wondered around talking to the other teams. Dave was there whom I had not seen since Bel Air. He was cooking with his regular team IQUE, and it was nice seeing him again. Steve and I stopped by the Lunchmeat site. He introduced me around and they offered us some of their taco type dip they had prepared in a cast iron pan, I believe it was called “dam dip”. Whatever it was called, that stuff was really good. They were nice enough to share with me the basics they had used to prepare the dish and I made a mental note to give that one a try in the future.
The weather was great this weekend, which was a real change of pace, as many of the contestants from years past told stories of how hard it had rained for the past two years. This year it was very sunny and warm during the day, short sleeve weather, although it did get a little chilly during the night, but after all, it was only April.
Team Agave got two calls on Saturday and Steve insisted that I go with Dale to except the brisket trophy. This would be my first “walk” at a regular KCBS contest and even though I was just the pot washer, I gotta tell you it was really cool. Hearing the teams name called and walking up to except recognition from the contest organizers and also the genuine congratulations from the other cooks, wow, as it was once said in a beer commercial I think, “It don’t get no better than this.” Hmmmmm, well maybe it could, if I could get a call for something I cooked at one of these contests, now that would be doing something!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
This should be a quick meeting, I’d guess they wrap this up sometime around July.
Here's the proposed changes from the KCBS web site.
2008 Topics for discussion
1. Clarification of rule number 10 regarding the definition of “fine dice”.
2. More clearly define “electric grill” in rule number 5.
3. Ban the use of electronically controlled thermostats on smokers
4. Clarification of rule number 12 regarding the definition of ribs:
a. Add clarification for the definition of ribs.
b. Clarify an entry receiving 1’s across the board for rib meat without the
bones. (Why not just 1’s in appearance.)
5. Clarification on the definition of parboiling in rule number six.
6. Consideration for the evaluation of the smoke ring when considering appearance, pertaining to rule number 3 of the Judging Procedures.
7. Team signage at events.
8. Refinement of rule number 5 regarding the definition of a cooker.
9. Ban the use of chemical enhancements in competition meat.
10. New rule regarding the use of utensils during judging.
11. Prohibit distribution of left over contest entry food.
12. Abolish garnish.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Hospitality restaurant in Manhattan New York. The word on the street is
Ray is revamping some of the menu items which will carry the Drbbq brand
from the book world into the restaurant world. Let's just hope there's
no 'Wardrobe Malfunction' !
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Steve Farrin- President
Gary Taft- Vice President
Leslie Lovely- Treasurer
Eric Mitchell- Recording Secretary
Doug Pini- Corresponding Secretary
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Steve e-mailed me when he returned from Vegas to get my address, he was sending the plaque to me for 5th place sausage, which I thought was great. I gotta tell you, I really got some mileage from that plaque. I displayed it obnoxiously prominent in the kitchen and was sure to wave it in front of anyone's nose that stood still for any more than 30 seconds in the area. As Christmas approached, Jo insisted that I transfer it to my office, which I did, where it remains today. I am sure she was glad to have it gone from the kitchen, although I would still give anyone that would listen a full blow-by-blow account of the contest anytime I was asked, which would include a trip to my office to see "the hardware".
During the 2006 holiday season as my friends and family became glassy eyed while listening to my sausage cooking escapades for the twentieth time, there were a few that not only didn't glass over, but that actually appeared interested. At times, bringing the subject up and asking if they could go down and "take a look" at the plaque. Especially as I thought out loud that I would like to start my own team, there actually seemed to be some interest. I was pleasantly surprised that there were others that would be interested, I might be able to pull this off I thought.
My friend Bobby, the superintendent of the recently completed kitchen project, was very interested. He asked many questions and was excited at the idea. Bobby is always very busy with his regular job, his family and other side jobs that he is working on, but said that he would like to get involved. Just recently, Bobby had ventured into the kitchen and began to try his hand at cooking various dishes, other than cooking on the grill. He really enjoyed when he came to our house, jumping in and getting involved with the food preparation, he was enjoying his move from the grill to the kitchen and was looking to learn more.
Erich, my friend and neighbor had listened to all of my stories and tales many times over, always laughing as if he had never heard them before. He also had been by to visit us for the two years that we cooked at the tailgater challenge. We walked around together, looking at the cookers and talking to the cooks. One thing is for sure, Erich shared my passion for drinking beer and eating BBQ. Anytime I made anything on the grill or the smoker, Erich would always volunteer to test out the grub. A decent grill cook, Erich was also eager to learn about the low and slow method of cooking BBQ.
Mike and I had cooked together at both of the tailgaters at Bel Air and he is very skilled around the stove and the grill. An accomplished home chef, he was a natural to be a team member. A skilled outdoorsman, he is very helpful with his knife skills and knowledge of meat trimming and preparation. Mike and I spent a lot of time together discussing various cooking techniques. I bounced many thoughts and ideas about the teams' formation off Mike, which always resulted in spirited discussion. Some would say that any time Mike and I are in a discussion that it is spirited, but I would say they would be exaggerating, well, maybe not, that is what makes it fun.
Al and I have been friends for around 30 years. It hardly seems that long, when I think back of all the great dinners that Jo and I have enjoyed with him and his wife Arlene, better known as "Pete". Other than my Mother, I would say that Al and Pete had the most influence on me as far as my interest in cooking. Many summer afternoons were spent around the grill at their home as we cooked everything from london broil to chicken wings to Canada goose. Over the years, Al has also developed into a fine home chef, while a traditional southern Sunday dinner cooked by Pete surely cannot be beat. When asked, Al did not hesitate, he wanted in and the team was complete, after all, it would be a good reason to get together a couple of times through out the summer and drink a few beers.
With 5 guys on the team I felt we could enter a few contests our first year without too much trouble. Even if everyone couldn't make it to a particular contest, as long as we had 3 or 4 at a contest we should be OK. I certainly was not ready to try the iron man solo cook, at least not yet anyway.
As the year 2007 approached we had the makings of a competition BBQ team, or did we. What we had was, one guy with a pipe dream (and a 5th place sausage plaque) and 4 other guys that liked to cook, eat and drink, oh well, I guess when you look at it that way, we DID have the makings of a BBQ team! The only thing we did not have was a cooker, a trailer, any additional equipment, a schedule, or any real plan. We did however, have plenty of beer, coolers and ice, so we were on our way!
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
system. Voting was supposed to begin today but many members have not
received an email with their login information to vote. There doesn't
seem to be any info on the KCBS website explaining what to do if you
don't get an email from them. Stay tuned....