Monday, March 23, 2009

Texas BBQ......

I think that anyone who has ever had real Texas BBQ would really enjoy this book. It has just been released and for me was well worth the wait. I picked my copy up from University of Texas Press. To some I think that this book would be something of a decoration for someones coffee table, however for those who have a passion for barbecue or have been to a few of the places it talks about I think you will have a much deeper appreciation for what the book is really about. There are no recipes in this book and really only a few pictures of the great barbecue that these places are so well known for. Instead you will find random photographs taken at each joint as well as some pictures and a few kind words about the pitmasters who keep these places going. I think that this book is a tribute to the many true authentic BBQ joints we are so fortunate to have in Texas and I hope to see in the future more and more people carrying on these traditions. This is a great book for the BBQ enthuasist and anyone who enjoys reading about Texas and it's BBQ. Mom and Pop joints are the best there is and my hats off to anyone going out on their own to fulfill their barbecue dreams.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Welcome to the neighborhood......

This weekend I had the pleasure of cooking for a wonderful family here in Midland. They are great friends of ours and just recently moved into our neighborhood. They decided to have a birthday party/housewarming party and invited over about 40 of their closest friends and family. I volunteered to do all the cooking so we decided on a menu of a couple of pork butts, two whole chickens, three sausage links, three racks of pork spare ribs, some BBQ beans and about 20 chicken breasts. It was devoured in about 45 minutes, however the overall process to make it happen took most of the day. Overall it turned out to be a great success and an opportunity for some great things in the future.

The chickens turned out great. They were left intact for the guests to cut off thier own pieces. The ribs turned out fine but were not my typical competition ribs that I like to cook. I made the rub and sauce for the ribs from a book entitled Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food by Karen Putman. The sauce was a variation of the Cherry Chipotle BBQ sauce that I was able to use on just about everything. The beans turned out great as well as the pork butt's. I was disappointed in the first one however the second one that we pulled later in the night was by far on of the better butt's I have cooked. It had a great bark and a nice smoky flavor from being left on the pit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sweetwater Rattle Snake Roundup and BBQ Cookoff.....

This past weekend was our first contest of the year. It was the Worlds Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up and BBQ Cook-Off held in Sweetwater, TX. One of my team members and I headed out Thursday after work and made the drive over to San Angelo to pick up an RV. This contest was special because several of my friends from Houston came down as well as some of my friends from Midland. We arrived in San Angelo at about 8:00, picked up the RV and were off to Sweetwater. We pulled into Sweetwater at about 11:30 PM and went to McDonalds for a late night snack. To our surprise there were about 30 little kids eating there and were having a birthday party for one of their friends. We went over to Walmart and did some last minute shopping and pulled into Newman Park by the Coliseum around 12:30 AM. It had rained all day and the entrance into the park was basically undriveable even with a 4x4. We parked the RV by the colisuem and settled in for the night. The next day we found a spot in the park, made it in and set up camp. We wound up having to park the RV outside of the park right by the edge and I had to bring the cooker inside the park by the RV. All morning we watched people coming in and getting stuck. It was almost like watching a Tractor Pull with obstacles. This year they added an award for the guy who pulled out the most people.
Our friends began to arrive Friday after lunch. By the time they had showed up water had began to overtake our campsite so we had to buy sandbags and a broom to push it out off of the grass. It rained most all of Friday and never got over 36 degrees. Saturday it drizzled most of the morning and finally cleared up about the time judging took place. Patty and the kids drove up on Saturday morning and went over to the coliseum to see all of the Rattlesnake demonstrations. There were about 97 teams entered up this year and the competition was tough. Overall it was a great time with the exception of the weather. The weather was about as bad as you can expect but we had a lot of fun. The judging at this contest is different than most and is something I do not agree with. The judges are served as much free alcohol as possible and the local radio station advertises live from the cook-off all the turn in times and encourages listeners to come out and judge. You basically have judges that come in off the street or from cooking teams and get drunk and walk around after the judging. This year we did not make the top 10. If you don't make the top 10 you really don't know where you wound up in the contest. You could have been 11th or 97th and not really know where you stood. Last year we placed 8th in Chicken out of about 137 teams. We were not as successful this year. Our Chicken did not hit. We did a practice run Friday and it turned out just like I wanted but Saturday it overcooked. The ribs had a little to much pepper and did not turn the color they usually do but they tasted wonderful. I was very dissapointed to not have made it in Brisket. I had numerous compliments on my brisket and it turned out exceptionally well. We had another team that came up who had tried it and said they were very surprised it didn't hit. I guess you cant win them all but you might as well have fun while you try.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My thoughts on Brisket......

I have a few thoughts on Brisket that I would like to share. I have probably more experience with Brisket than any other meat category out there that we as competition cookers are familiar with cooking. In Texas Beef is a very huge industry and is primarily what Texans are known for raising and cooking. In barbecue Brisket is the primary staple. It's not barbacoa that Lolis Eric Elie talks about in his DVD Smokestack Lightning. It's a good DVD and a great book in which I own, however I do not think he portrayed Texas accurately vs the other BBQ regions of the US. My introduction to brisket truthfully did not come to me when I first started getting into barbecue. It came from my upbringing and being a part of a Ranching family. I was not raised in the city so I have a hard time dealing with living in one. I was raised in the country and with that comes freedom to own and raise livestock. We had cattle on our ranch in Central TX and we also had show cattle at home. There is a very distinct difference in how ones meat will look and taste VS the other. Cattle that are fed grass and hay will mostly have a greenish, yellowish or grayish tint on the fat cap of their Brisket. This is due to their diet, protein, etc. In my opinion I think there is also a difference in taste, tenderness, and quality of the meat. Cattle that are grain fed however will have a hard white fat cap on their briskets and in my opinion will be more tender, taste better, and just overall be a better quality brisket. If your brisket selection does not allow you to cook Angus beef then I would suggest picking two briskets and cooking them side by side. One with dark yellow fat and one with hard white fat. You should see a difference and if this if something you struggle with I hope this tip will help. Something else most people do not know is that when cattle are slaughtered the butcher will use a saw or sometimes even a chain saw to cut the brisket out of the animal. When he does this he has to steam the meat at a very high temperature where it touched the saw to prevent E-Coli from spreading and to kill any germs. The brown edges around the Brisket you see in the cryovack packaging was where it was steamed while processing. It's important to always cut them off if possible around the edges of your Brisket. One last thing about Brisket I think is important to know is that many people get discouraged because they go by time vs actual temp of the Brisket while cooking. Around 160 - 165 briskets will plateau for a while meaning all the collagen, fat, and connective tissues will start to break down. This is where the Brisket will start to tenderize so it's important to be sure and not pull it to early because this process is different for each individual brisket. Some take a couple of hours and some take more. I think foil can speed the time up a little, however I tend to like a little bit of bark on my Brisket. When I foil it though sometimes the top of the Brisket will have sort of a wet steamed look to it and not the bark I tend to look for. If anyone has a tip on foiling briskets without loosing all the bark please let me know.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A family affair......

For me I do not think Barbecue would be near as rewarding if it were not for the support and love of my family. I am not one of those guy's that goes to a contest and acts like a kid in a candy store. I have seen those guy's. They are just there for their own pleasure and to me I couldn't imagine my parents or grandparents ever doing that to me. Leaving me or other members of the family alone while they wandered from camp site to camp site, flirting with others, eating everyone's BBQ and coming up to your camp wanting to talk about absolutely nothing of importance or ask you if you have seen their kid's. It's sad but barbecue means a lot of different things to different people. I also hate it at those same competitions when people cuss in front of women and children in public and I get extremely upset when people are doing it in front of my family. That's one part of the competition that I hate to see. Unfortunately I think those guy's are all over in the BBQ world and those guy's are part of the reason I think BBQ sometimes get's such bad publicity. The thing I love most though about competitions is that to me they are a wonderful time to spend with family and to teach them about something that they can use or enjoy for a life time is more rewarding than anything. My daughters are some of my best critics and by that I don't mean they like or defend everything I cook. Having little Texans in a barbecue household is like having an Irishmen in a beer pub, so I learn a lot by having their honest opinions of what I cook. They will tell you what they think unlike some of your friends. Having them by my side along with my wife and little boy is something I truly love about the competitions. Last year they took 1st and 2nd place in porkchops out of 13 kids in the 12 and under category at the Texas WTBA State Championship. They were 10 and 6 at the time and I was very very proud. They picked out their own rubs, seasoned their own chops and did everything but put the meat on the pit. For me I got more out of that than any BBQ award I have ever won. It's almost like me showing up to a cookoff full of 60 year olds and beating them. They learned about porkchops at home because that's the only thing they can cook when daddy's cooking. To me I think it all starts at home and you never know when your advise will kick into play. It's very rewarding being able to share something you love with your family and friends and seeing them so excited about things that mean so much to you is why I think we do what we do.