Welcome to Barbeque Nation!!

If you are into mouth-watering, "low and slow" BBQ - well, you have come to the right place! Regardless of whether you are a "newbie" simply wanting to know how/where to get started - or a "backyard champ" wanting to improve your skills - or a "pro" competing out there on the BBQ circuit - Barbeque Nation has something just for you...

We go about things just a little bit differently around here. There's no "forum" - therefore, no "bull-loney" to have to wade through... Barbeque Nation is all about "news you can use" - useful information/tips/comments to help make your barbecue experience a much better one. Our mission is to spread the "good news about Que" out to people at all levels of experience and interest!

We also feel we have assembled a wonderful "staff" of guest writers that will help bring a wealth of knowledge and insight regarding BBQ. You just never know who may show up here "at our table" from time to time!

So - pull up a chair, put another log in the firebox - and spend a little time with us as we share some smoke together...


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photos from Austin / NBBQA

Monday, February 23, 2009

What a Trip & Class!...

The "Old School vs High Tech" class with Rod Gray & Johnny Trigg was a great one and well worth the time/money IMHO. There were 24 folks in attendance, the class took 13 hours (from 7 AM until 8 PM on Sat), and I came home 26 legal pages full of notes - so it will take me a few days to get my things compiled!

It was like "BBQ Disneyland" at this meeting! Besides meeting and working with Rod Gray and Johnny Trigg, I met Paul Kirk, Mike Mills, and sat next to Lea Ann Whitten at the NBBQA banquet on Friday night. Well, Ed actually sat next to her... I got to "tag along"... And yes, she is every bit as pretty as she is in print or on TV!!. I also saw "Fast Eddy" Mauren, and I had the opportunity to visit with "old friends" Bill & Barbara Milroy (Texas Rib Rangers). I also saw some "sweet" pits - including a brand new candy apple red Jamie Geer pit that "Checkered Pig" (who won last year's RNR in SLC) had come down to Texas to pick up. I truly felt like a "greenhorn" in that crowd - but they were all very nice and "welcoming", even to a novice like me.

The class definitely was not a disappointment. It was wonderful to see different approaches to cooking championship BBQ - and not just from 1 but 2 of the top teams in the US! Much to my surprise, they "showed all/discussed all" - meat selection, prep, the "secret" rubs and sauces, cooking techniques, turn-in boxes, etc. Very few stones were left unturned - and no questions were left unanswered. The class had some pretty decent "heavy hitters" in attendance, too.

We had an actual classroom with a big mirror right over the "work table" so we could see everything (and/or we could walk up and watch from right next to them), and the pits were just right outside the door. So, we were constantly moving back & forth between a classroom setting and the pits themselves. It was "non-stop bop" beginning promptly at 7 AM, we "worked" right through lunch, and wrapped up Q&A at a little after 8 PM. It was a "solid" 13 hours of learning/watching. Ed Roith & I had planned to venture down to the famous/infamous "6th Street" in Austin Saturday night after the class - but I was "brain mush" by that evening and decided not to go (maybe I am just getting old!)

The Que? Well - trust me, there is a reason these 2 teams do as well as they do! Beautiful food, solid presentations - and dang it, it tasted darn great, too!! Overall, I slightly preferred Johnny's BBQ to Rod's - but not by much! Trust me, Rod showed me a "pellet pooper" can certainly compete with the best of stick burners (although it "came out" that Rod also has a Jamie Geer pit, too!)

I will be posting more from the class in a few days.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Off to Austin!!

Well, I am off to Austin, TX., tomorrow (Fri, 2/20) to attend in part the National BBQ Association meeting - and take a competition BBQ class taught by Rod Gray ("Pellet Envy") and Johnny Trigg ("Smokin' Triggers")... Talk about being "stoked!!" I am also looking forward to spending some time with my good friend / Master Judge / KCBS representative Ed Roith (Ed, among other things, has helped oversee the judging at Rock N Ribs for the past 3 years...)

Although I have been aware of the NBBQA for many years, I have to admit I really don't know much about them... And I am only going to get to be there for about 1 1/2 days of the meeting this time around... But after looking over the speakers and events for their annual meeting this year, I definitely want to come back next year to attend a whole lot more of the meeting...

Paul Kirk, Mike Mills, Mike Davis, Lee Ann Whippen, Woody Wood, Eddy Maurin are just a few of the speakers who were at the meeting this year - along with Rod and Johnny, of course! Talk about an "all-star" cast!! And classes on everything from creating a distinctive rub to leveraging your competition success to opening a BBQ restaurant to bottling/marketing your rub or sauce to selecting a competition pit to judging classes - and more!! And if that isn't enough to wet your appetite, they also conduct an all day "tour" early in the week of many of the historic Texas Hill Country BBQ "Shrines" in the Austin area, where you get to tour the kitchens, talk with the owners, and taste samples.

This sounds like the "Super Bowl" of BBQ - or "BBQ Heaven" - to me!!!

Entitled "Old School vs High Tech", the class I am taking features 2 of competition BBQ's best... Johnny Trigg of Smokin' Triggers has cooked almost 600 events and has over 60 Grand Championships and countless category wins. With Alvarado, Texas as his home base, Johnny has logged hundreds of thousands of miles competing, visiting most of the U.S. states, and even competing in Europe. Johnny was awarded the Kansas City Barbeque Society Team of the Year in 2003, has been runner-up twice and has been a KCBS category Team of the Year many times. With victories in 2000 and 2003, Johnny is the only competitor to win the Jack Daniel's World Invitational twice.

Rod Gray has competed in over 200 events all across the country in the last eight years. In that time, Pellet Envy has won forty-five championships and has ended seven straight seasons as a top nationally ranked team. Rod has been invited to the Jack Daniel’s World Invitational five times in his short career. With only nine perfect scores awarded in the last two year, Pellet Envy received three of them and ended the 2007 season as the best rib cooks in the country. Pellet Envy gathered eight Grand Champions and fifteen category wins in 2008 alone, ending the season with more wins than any other team in America.

I have to be quite honest, I truly feel a little in "awe" of being in the presence of these guys. At the same time, though, having met Johnny last year at "Grill on the Hill" up at Snowbird, I also know he is a very cordial, friendly, and "down to earth" guy - and I expect Rod will most likely be the same.

I look forward to "reporting back" next week about my trip, along with photos of my adventure! As I said - talk about being "stoked"!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

QUE TIPS - What's Your Boiling Point?

In 3rd grade science class, we learned that water boils at 212 degrees F - right?? Well, yes - provided you live at sea level. The elevation that you live/cook at - and the barometric pressure on any given day - can have a significant effect on the temperature at which water boils.

Now - you are probably wondering what all this has to do with BBQ. Well, a good cook knows that the pit temperature, the internal temperature of the meat being cooked, and the "touch/feel" of the meat being cooked play an important role in turning out great Que. The "touch/feel" is pretty much subjective, and comes with time & experience... But we can be just a little more objective when it comes to temperature through the use of thermometers.

However, thermometers - especially those that sometimes come "standard" on many pits - can be rather inaccurate (20+ degrees or more). So how do you know if your thermometer is accurate/calibrated? Simply by seeing what it registers when measuring the temperature of boiling water!

However - at the beginning of this post, we mentioned that water boils at different temperatures depending on where we live. So how can you know at what temperature water should be boiling where you live on any given day?

The good folks at ThermoWorks (maker of the ThermaPen) have a web page for helping make this just a little easier. By going to this web page, and simply entering the elevation and the barometric pressure that day where you live, you can know the exact temperature at which water will boil. Then stick the stem of your thermometer into boiling water and see how the two compare!

Where do you get your local elevation above sea level or barometric pressure? Do a "Google search", enter the name of your town/city and state, along with the word "elevation" and hit "Enter". This should give you several entries that provide your local elevation. And/or if you are really into "high tech" and have either a GPS unit or a fancy mountaineering watch (Suunto, etc), you many times can derive your elevation that way as well. As to the barometric pressure, go to any weather web site, type in your town and state, and presto, you will find it listed along with the current temperature!

CLICK HERE to visit the ThermoWorks boiling point calculator.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ready, Set... Go!!

Welcome to Barbeque Nation! This is a project I have been mulling "off and on" for over a year now... And well - the time is now "better" to launch this effort...

Unlike a lot of BBQ "chat forums", we are a low-key "joint" that will stick primarily with BBQ news/tips/"factoids" that people interested in Que can use... Especially if you live here in the Rocky Mountain West... We will feature some special "guest interviews" from time to time, look at various smokers & "talk" with their manufacturers - and do some other "fun stuff", too...

There won't be articles each and every day, either... We aren't going to "fill space" just to "fill space"... But we do our best to offer up a "tasty morsel" to our readers at least once or twice a week... So keep us "on your radar" as you are out there surfing the web!

Recipes & cooking techniques? Maybe a few... But in all honesty, there are some really great sites for that - such as my good friend John Dawson's site, Patio Daddio BBQ... So we will generally leave that aspect of BBQ to the "real chefs"!! I'm hoping John (and some of you others who are not as "challenged" in the culinary arts as I am!) will "drop-in" from time to time as a "Guest Pit Boss" to share with us as well..

Again - welcome to Barbeque Nation... I hope you will enjoy it and find it useful/entertaining... We welcome your comments/opinions - and please feel free to drop us an "article" for review and possible publication!


QUE SCHOOL - So What Exactly is Barbeque??

One of my bigger "surprises" in moving to the Rocky Mountain West from Texas (where I was born and lived for 45+years) came after I moved to Utah 10 years ago and was invited by some new friends to a "barbeque" at one of their homes. You see, BBQ is as much a part of life and growing up in Texas as is football, a fast car, and/or having a crush on a pretty high school cheerleader. So needless to say, I was pretty darn excited as my mind was conjuring up visions of brisket and ribs and sausage coming fresh off a smoker. As I walked up to the front door, I could smell the sweet aroma of charcoal burning coming from the backyard - and my mouth began to water with anticipation of the feast I just knew surely awaited me as soon as someone answered my knock on the door...

So I am certain you can imagine my surprise that day when I discovered at my new friend's home that "barbeque" to some folks means hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on a grill!! I "casually" (and as inconspicuous as possible) searched high and low all over their house that day, looking for the brisket or ribs that I just knew had to be awaiting me somewhere. My Southern upbringing prevented me from asking my hosts where the "real" barbeque was - so I politely ate a dog or two (with a smile on my face, of course - my momma would have been so proud of me!!)

So - just in case anyone reading this blog is relatively new to barbeque, let's make certain from the "git-go" that we are all talking "pigs to pigs" here! In my book, they don't make real picante sauce in New York City - and "barbeque" sure ain't hot dogs and hamburgers cooked outdoors over a grill!! ( I know, I know - the proper spelling is actually barbecue - but I prefer the "Q" spelling...)

Not that I don't occasionally enjoy a hot dog or hamburger cooked over a grill, mind you. But for the purposes of this blog, "barbeque" will be basically defined as "a process whereby a large cut of tough meat is cooked by the smoke of a hardwood fire at low temperatures for a long period of time, with "doneness" determined by the meat's tenderness" (taken from the foreword by Chris Schlesinger for the book Smoke and Spice.) Please notice there is no reference made to cooking Que in a crockpot, or parboiling anything either!!

Now - there are "purists"/ "elitists" out there that feel this heat source for Que has to come solely from a hardwood fire. And I suppose that is fine. I, too, have owned a "stick burner" which cranked out some award-winning Que cooked over some seasoned wood. But being somewhat of a "renaissance man" myself, I feel that the heat source for BBQ can also come from charcoal (lump or briquettes) - and yes (gasp!), even gas!! And this meat can be cooked either indirectly or directly over that heat source (I am certain the founding fathers of the KCBS are probably rolling in their graves right now!) As long as the meat is cooked "low and slow" - and wood in some form/fashion (logs, chunks, chips, pellets, etc) is used for heat, smoke and flavor - well, I see no reason not to embrace all of my Que brothers and sisters, regardless of how they are going about their "art."

SO - if you are going to host a "barbeque", just be real careful what you are serving your guests. You never know when you might be inviting someone just like me - only to have them scouring your kitchen, looking all over the place for the REAL barbeque!!

And if you don't quite know how to go about that - well, just hang around here and we will be only too happy to get you started in the right direction!