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Wednesday
Aug132014

My mini-BBQ Crawl - Kansas City

I recently had to be in Kansas City for business.  With KC being one of the BBQ hot spots in America, I had to try to get as much BBQ eaten during a 3 night trip as possible.  I was successful in eating BBQ 2 out of 3 nights, and that ain't bad.

On the first night, plotted a course for Arthur Bryants.  Unfortunately, I rolled into their parking lot at 9:05pm, 5 minutes past closing time.  

Undeterred, I reset the GPS and targeted the nearest Gates' BBQ location.  Luckily, they were open until midnight.  At 9:30, there was a line of at least 6 people in front of me.  I figured that was a good sign.  Being in KC, I had to order the burnt ends sandwich and fries.  Gates did not disappoint.

The next night, we worked until nearly 2:00am so I didn't have a chance to even think about BBQ.  But on Wednesday, I managed to get to the nearest BBQ joint to my work site that I could find, a place called the Smokebox Cafe.  I had a brisket and pork plate.  I preferred Gates, but still had a good experience.

Like I said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.  Look forward to my full review of each of these places coming soon.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Wednesday
Jun252014

Regional BBQ Infographic

While America is a melting pot, local cultures and preferences are varied in almost every area of life.  BBQ is no exception.  Recently, I came across this infographic that does a nice job of describing the different styles of BBQ that you find in different regions of the country. 





Infographic courtesy of http://www.goedekers.com.

Thanks to the folks at Goedekers in St. Louis for the artwork. Cheers, Braddog
Thursday
Jun122014

Review: Ro-Man Pork Puller

Awhile ago, I wrote about a prototype pork puller that I created based on a product that I'd seen on the web.  My DIY pork puller worked okay, but the materials weren't all that substation.  I used a rotissiere rod and clamp from a Weber gas grill inserted into a cordless drill.  While that worked fine for light use at home, it just didn't hold up over time.

This is my DIY version

I considered building another one on my own but considering the investment had already made and the cost to do it again, I decided that I'd just spring for the product that my design was based on, the Ro-Man Pork Puller.

To clarify, Santa Claus brought me the Pork Puller and I've used it all spring.  Now that I've had a chance to evaluate it extensively, I thought I'd document my observations.

The significantly more substantial Ro-Man Pork Puller

In short, this thing is WAY better than my DIY model.  The stainless stell tines and the disk that they are welded too are significantly sturdier than my rotissiere based model.  The shaft that is inserted into a cordless drill is also substantial, and it's long enough to easily reach to the bottom of a large stock pot.

Is it worth $68.95?  Well, I'll answer that a couple of ways.  If you cook a lot of pulled pork and have to pull more than 2 at a time, then absolutley.  Secondly, you're talking to a guy that spent $90 on a quick read thermometer.  I've spent this much money on lesser products, that's for sure.  For me, it as well worth the investment and believe that I've gotten my money's worth just using it for the graduation parties that I cooked for this spring.

Check out the videos and links over at http://www.porkpuller.com and pick one up for yourself.  

Cheers,
Braddog

 

 

Monday
May052014

Review: Frontier Lump Charcoal

Charcoal is charcoal, right?  Wrong.  Not only do you have the lump vs. briquette debate, but not all lump (or briquettes for that matter) is made equal.  And lump is all I burn in my Big Green Egg & Bubba Keg.

Now I don't believe in buying Big Green Egg brand lump charcoal.  I think it's pricey and no better than Royal Oak.  But over the weekend, I stumbled upon a huge bag of Frontier Lump Charcoal at Sams Club.  I'd only ever seen mesquite lump at Sams before so I was pleased to see that they were carrying something other than briquettes.  So, a bag came home with me.

However when I fired it up for the first time, I was struck by two things.  First, the pieces were huge!  I mean every bag has a few big pieces, but this was loaded with pieces as big as your fist.

Second, when I put the MAPP torch to the lump it sparked terribly.  It's not uncommon for lump to spark when you light it with a torch, but some sparks worse than others.  This was the.absolute.worst I've ever seen.  Sparks were flying like I had lit fireworks.  I'm lucky that I had a t-shirt on that I wasn't worried about.

Overall, I guess this lump is okay.  But I probably won't buy it again due to how badly it sparks at lighting.

Cheers,

Braddog

Sunday
Mar092014

Broil King Keg 4000 - First Impression

Recently, a friend asked for my opinion of the Broil King 4000.  Since I'm a H.U.G.E fan of the kamado style bbq pit I get a request like this every few months when one of the big box stores trots out the latest Big Green Egg Killer.  But my initial reaction to this particular cooker was, "Man, this thing just won't die".  

You see, the original incarnation of this grill was called the Bubba Keg.  These folks started with insulated beer/coffee mugs and coolers and added the Bubba Keg Grill to their product line.  When it was introduced, I was asked to evaluate and review it.  I did a couple of head-to-head comparisons with the Big Green Egg.  And there some things to really like about this unit, but it also had a few issues.  One of the biggest issues was the solvency of the company.  They subsequently spun off the grill and it became the Big Steel Keg.  

You can see my early attempts at their user forum at http://forum.bigsteelkeg.com/  I'm Braddog over there too.

Now apparently Broil King has acquired the product and rebranded it the Broil King Keg to compliment their line of gassers.  I applaud the move, because as I said, I like the unit.  In fact, I still cook on my Bubba Keg regularly.  I leave it setup for grilling and my Big Green Egg setup for smoking and use them accordingly.

So here's what I like about the Bubba Keg/Big Steel Keg/Broil King Keg:

  • It's portable.  The wheels on the back of the unit allow me to tip it back and move it around like a hand tuck.  My Bubba Keg also came with a mount for a receiver hitch, so I can put the grill on my hitch and haul it.  Waaaay more portable and duable that a ceramic Big Green Egg.
  • It's lighter than the BGE (adding to the portability).
  • It's insulated and can be used in all sorts of weather, as opposed to a thin-walled, non-insulated cooker like a Weber (hey, I like Webers so no hate maile please).
  • It has all the cooking characteristics of a kamado style bbq pit, and that's a good thing.

Here's what I didn't like about the Keg but maybe they have solved some of these with this new incarnation.

  • Try as I might, I never was able to get the Bubba Keg to hold a low temperature.  My unit was drafty and leaked air into the cooking chamber, making temperature control nearly impossible.  That's fine if you want to cook hot and fast, but not so much if you want to cook low & slow.  There were lots of folks re-sealing and modifying their pits to address these issues with some measure of success.  
  • Given the frequency of ownership changes, there's been uncertainty and lack of availability for replacements parts.  Again, the advantage here goes to the incumbent.  The support, stability of ownership, active user community, and availability of 3rd party accessories are all significant advantages for the Big Green Egg.
  • At this price point, I'd buy a Big Green Egg.  This cooker should be ~$500 and I believe that they'd sell like hot cakes. At nearly $900, that's too close to ceramic territory.

I hope that Broil King has a lot of success with the Keg.  It's got some real advantages that make it a good choice for a lot of folks.  I wish them well.


Cheers,
Braddog 

 

 

Monday
Feb242014

Review: iGrill Mini

Over the years, I've tried a variety of wireless thermometers.  But they've always left a lot to be desired in terms of reliability of the connection between the probe and the monitor.  Each time I try one of these gadgets, I'm hopeful that this will be the one.

Well, this may finally be the one.  I received an iGrill Mini for Christmas, but only recently got around to trying it out.  I unboxed it and had it set up in a a matter of minutes.  Man!  This thing is really small.  

Next, I simply downloaded the app from iTunes and powered up the Mini and I was all set.

I inserted the probe in a packer brisket in my Backwoods cooker, and used the magnetic base to stick the sending unit to the side of the pit.  Over the next couple of hours, I wondered around the house while the app on my iPhone kept me up to date on the progres of my brisket.

If I ventured outside of the wireless range, the app quickly re-paired itself to the probe when I got back in range.  This took no action on my part.  The app graphed the progress over time and I was able to set a target temp.  When the brisket hit that temperature, the app alerted me accordingly.

One of the other near things about the app is the ability to see other users of iGrill devices via the iPhones location services.

I only have 2 complaints.  First, although the battery life is stated at 150 hrs, mine died in the middle of my second cook.  Second, I should have waited for the 4 probe version due out later this year.  I'd also be interested in picking up one of the ambient temperature probes to monitor the cooking temp of the pit.

Overall, I'm optimisitc and will continue to use the Mini to see if the battery life continues to be poor.  I'll provide an update as I learn more.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Sunday
Dec222013

Reaffirming The Big Green Egg

I still love cooking on my Big Green Egg.  Sure, I cook on a large capacity, cabinet-style smoker when I need the capacity.  But I've recently cooked on my Egg a little more than usual, and I'm reminded how much I like this rig.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the world's best grill and smoker that I've captured over the years.

2007 05 27 010

20090127_0401

Cheers,
Braddog 

Friday
Dec202013

Ribs on a Medium Big Green Egg

I've cooked on a large Big Green Egg for nearly 7 years.  I've also had the opportunity to cook on an XL a few times at Grillfest when I've done the Big Green Egg demos for the local dealer.  But until recently, I'd never cooked on one of the smaller Eggs.

Over Thanksgiving, we made our annual trip to Pittsburgh.  My Brother-in-law recently scored a medium Egg off of Craigslist, so while we were visiting I had the chance fire it up for a side of ribs.

Here are my observations about cooking on the Medium vs. my Large.

 

  • I can lay 3 sides of baby back ribs flat across the cooking grate on my large.  You certainly can't do that on the medium.  
  • I'm not sure you could cook overnight without refilling the charcoal.  A full load of Royal Oak lump only burned for ~5 hours (I grilled pork tenderloing when the ribs came off)
  • It sure seemed like the medium cooked ribs quicker than my large.
  • It was cold, but it felt like I had the vents open wider than I'm used to on the large to maintain a 250 dome temp.

There were no complaints with the finished product, but given my choice I'd prefer a large Egg for most things.  However, I admit that I may be biased by my familiarity with the large.

What about you?  Ever cooked on the other size Eggs?  Leave me a comment and let me know what you though of your experince.

Cheers,

Braddog

Friday
Dec062013

Recipe: Grilled Pork Tenderloin Appetizer

IMG_3426

Awhile back, we attended a social gathering where they served drinks and appetizers.  One of the appetizers was toasted baquette pieces topped with a small piece of beef and horseradish.  I filed that away as something that I wanted to try to put a BBQ spin on.

IMG_3448

So last Saturday night, I had a chance to do just that.  I grilled a couple of pork tenderloin on Saturday morning.  I then wrapped them and placed them into the refrigerator to chill.  It's much easier to slice them thin when they are chilled than it is when they are warm.

IMG_3446

I then placed a piece of tenderloin on toasted baguettes, and topped each with a slice of a Harvati Dill cheese that my bride is fond of.  They make a great finger food and were a big hit at the gathering that we took them to.

Feel free to experiment with this.  I think these would be good with a dollop of a spicy or flavored mustard or something simialr as well.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Sunday
Nov172013

Review: AFirepuck Starter


I had the opportunity to try out the Afirepuck Fire Starter recently.  Now, I normally light my charcoal with a MAPP torch but have used lots of other methods over the years.  These starter pucks are individually packaged and sealed in tins.  They should store for a long time and travel nicely for tailgates and the like.

I was cooking some pork tenderloin on the Big Green Egg and had lots of time for puck to burn and get my lump charcoal started.  The puck burned for about 15 minutes (as advertised) and left no odor or noticeable waste behind.  

Here's a link to the product page over at afireinc.com.  A half dozen pucks will set you back $12.99.  They met my expectations and are certainly effecitve fire starters.

 

Cheers,
Braddog