Monday, August 31, 2009

This Should Be Interesting......

It's not everyday you check the mail and find out who's entered up in your next bbq contest. I have been following and studying competition barbecue for a number of year's but have only been competing since 2008. Today I recieved my packet in the mail for the upcoming KCBS Labor Day Blues and Barbecue Festival in Bedford and was a little surprised at some of the teams I saw whom have entered this contest. Out of the 40 teams currently entered, 12 of them are in the top 100 of the KCBS standings. Out of those about 5 are in the top 15. It's really going to be an honor to cook next to those guy's considering the amount of teams that are currently ranked this year. That number as it stands today is around 3,660 teams. I have been following many of these teams even though this will be our 2nd time to ever cook KCBS. I have also recognized many other names that are on the leaderboards of the current IBCA standings as well. This is definately going to be an interesting mix of true BBQ talent. I am really excited to see where the cards are going to fall. I will be cooking solo this weekend without the help of my trusted partner and comrade Chris Canon. I have really come to appreciate the value of cooking alongside friends and family. I have cooked alone several times but never in a KCBS comp. This is going to be a totally different ballgame for us that I cant wait to play.

To be continued......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IBCA Friends of Thunderbird Bay BBQ Cookoff......

Having just recently eaten at some of the best BBQ joints in Texas the day before this comp I was somewhat excited yet a little down that my brisket would probably not compare to what I had just eaten. It's amazing what happens to a perfectly good piece of meat vs another piece of meat that wont render sometimes. It sort of makes you want to just throw it on the ground. That being said I wanted to have a great attitude about this competition as my partner Chris Canon from Midland was coming up to join me in battle in a region thought of by most as one of the hardest places to compete in and around Texas.

I set up Friday after lunch in the park right by the pavilion in the shade and waited on Chris to arrive so we could begin the process of washing the meat etc...Chris arrived shortly after 4:00. We were registered in a matter of minutes and waited for what seemed forever to have the meat inspected. We decided to leave for awhile and came back to a very clean area with our own personal trash cans by our cook-site which was something you dont hardly ever see. We began prepping the briskets and put them in the cambro to season overnight and left for the evening.

We came back Sat morning around 4:00 AM and the first thing I noticed was the water/juice mixture dripping out of the bottom of my cambro. It was still pretty cold yet these are supposed to be airtight so I spent most of the morning distracted by how this could have happened. We fired up the pit and put on the briskets around 5 AM. Our lights had burned out so we worked in the dark getting the chicken cut and prepped. This time I chose to cook with free range chickens instead of the normal already split chickens we normally cook. The ribs went on afterwords and we watched the sun come up drinking coffee and discussing barbecue.

Around 9:00 we figured they would be having a cooks meeting as discussed the night before but found no one. We walked up to a registration table after eating a breakfast burrito made by one of the vendors and found one of the directors who gave us a rule sheet and our boxes and said this will serve as you cooks meeting. Typically these meetings last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes or even longer yet we were finished almost instantly and left scratching our heads.

Our first category for the day was chicken. We cooked and split two whole chickens and wound up going with the smaller one. We both thought it was the best we had done this year and made turn in without any problems.

Our second category for the day was ribs. We had a similar experience with our ribs like we had in Enid, OK. Good ribs up until presentation time. It's amazing how quick you can lower your own score with a bad cut but we made the best of it and covered up what we could making turn in with no problems.

Our last and final turn in of the day was brisket. We cooked two Briskets and both had refused to cooperate. Our best one was the biggest one we had on. About 15 minutes before turn in it had only reached 190 degrees. We didn't get it really where we wanted it and didn't get to rest it but it had exceptional flavor. We were right on the cutoff for turn in. The guy behind me was sent back to re-cut his Brisket. I watched closely at their table and he came back with it well past the cut off point.

For the most part this was a great cook-off up until the awards and what I saw happen at the brisket table. Colins Creek recieved calls in each category taking a 6th in Ribs, a 6th in Brisket, and a 9th in Chicken. One thing that took this from a good cook-off to a never go back cook-off was when one of the local teams took a first in every category. Typically this would never bother me except for the fact that it's supposed to be blind judging. All 10th through 2nd place calls were ticket numbers that were called yet for some reason they decided to call their name instead. How would they have any idea or know who's product that was if it was a fair contest ? Another factor that played a part in this is having local judges set up right by the turn in boxes and watching them interact with their local friends who were cooking right after they did a turn in. As much as I like having a positive attitude about barbecue how can you when each and every cook who competed gets up and screams BS and walks out during the Grand Championship only to pack up and leave almost immediately without saying their goodbye's. I think the IBCA board will be hearing about this one and it's unfortunate because not only was this their first year about 90% of the competitors came from parts all over Texas. I am not one to make accusations or have a bad attitude but it's funny how people you don't even know will pull up to your truck while packing up and encourage you to call the IBCA. I just wish Texas would join up with the rest of the world and adopt a judging system that's similar to the one that KCBS uses.

Blacks Barbecue, Lockhart Texas......

The first time I ever had a piece of Blacks Barbecue was on the way out of Lockhart. We had just had our fill of Kreuz Market and were heading out of town when I had the sudden urge to turn around and get some for the road. We came back into town and pulled up into what looked like a time warp. If you are not familiar with Blacks one thing that's very special about them is that they have been in business for over 77 years and have been ran by one family the entire time. It is the oldest family owned barbecue business in Texas. I went in and placed a quick order to go of 1/4 pound of Brisket, a rib and some jalepeno-cheddar sausage. They wrapped it all up in a piece of butcher paper and tin foil and put it in a paper bag. When I was headed out the door I ran into Kent Black whom I'd met in Austin at the National Barbecue Convention and he introduced me to his son Barrett who will one day be taking over. We visited for a while and since the family was waiting in the car I had to cut it short otherwise I could have been there for most of the day. About an hour after leaving Lockhart we decided to compare Blacks to what we had just had at Kreuz and decided to come back through Lockhart on the way home from our vacation just to go back.

Our 3 hour trip back to Lockhart at the end of the week seemed to last forever kind of like a kid around Christmas time. We finally arrived around 4:00 and were greeted by the same smiles and friendly faces that had greeted me just a few day's earlier. As we went in the the first thing you get is your tray and side dishes. Then you come up to a very seasoned cutting board behind the counter which is an actual table of sorts and order your meat where it is cut with a steel knife and fork. You can tell little has changed as this is one of the few places who still do it this way. We ordered 1 1/2 pounds of Brisket, several ribs, and some more jalepeno-cheddar sausage and took a seat. I must admit that the Brisket served at Blacks is bar none the best I have ever had. I have eaten at some really great places and nothing compares to the lasting flavor of their brisket. I know some people believe that salt and pepper create a bland brisket, however the addition of seasoned post oak is better than any combination of rub you could use and has some of the greatest flavor when paired with beef. I have come to believe that many rubs on the market now days have a tendency to actually take away from the meat instead of adding to it and you do not get the genuine actual flavor of what it should taste like otherwise.

After we had finished eating I went up to the counter to purchase some merchandise and was asked to go back through the line to pay. While paying Barrett Black had just walked in through the door and thanked me for coming back through. I told him how much I enjoyed the brisket and their barbecue and with that he proceeded to tell me something that very few people will probably ever know. Although this will not be discussed in this blog I can tell you that going back through that line was one of the biggest lessons in barbecue I have ever had and came at a time which was least expected. I would go one step further to say that what I walked out of their with that day is not any one recipe of sorts but will probably never be printed in any book nor will be found on the internet and can only be experienced at one place.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kreuz Market, Lockhart Texas......

This past week my family and I took a week's long trip down to the coast. On the way down to Corpus we took a little detour through the Texas Hill Country for some of the states finest barbecue. I have never been to Lockhart before and have always wanted to go. To me Coopers in Llano had always reigned as one of the supreme places to go, however after experiencing some of the BBQ that Taylor and Elgin had to offer I had to find out for myself if there was any better. Even though Lockhart was a few hours out of the way I knew it was something we had to try and I am so thankfull that we did. It is one thing to read about barbecue meccas such as Kreutz but to experience it in person brings a whole new level to true Texas barbecue.

Upon arriving one of the first things that I noticed about Kreuz is the size of the building. It is not the original Kreuz Market but does however come from the same Schmidt family. I have never seen such a large structure especially one that's built for barbecue. When you enter down the hallway up into the pit room where you place your order you will see signs all over making it very clear that this place is very different from most of the BBQ joints found in Texas as they have not changed a thing since the early 1900's. No Forks, No Sauce, and No Plates are just a few of the rules of eating here. When we walked up to place our order we were greeted by an elderly lady named Ella Townes and the Pitmaster Roy Perez. One thing I noticed while ordering is instead of hearing an electric knife cut into the meat like you do in most places in TX you actually hear the heat of the fire by the pit instead. Here they cut your meat with a very sharp steel knife just like they did back in their humble beginnings.


We ordered a pound of Brisket, a few ribs and some jalepeno cheddar sasauge. I have always agreed that barbecue sauce truly hides some of the great flavors of barbecue and little did I know how much it did until eating the brisket here. One thing that I have learned from this is the simpler the better. I also learned that post oak will now be my new wood of choice considering the magical flavors that it brings out in the meat along with just plain old salt and pepper. I have always cooked with mesquite mixed with oak or pecan however seeing that nearly all of the top joints in Texas use strictly Post Oak speaks volumes on why it truly is king here in Texas.

I would highly recommend Kreuz Market and Lockhart in general as an excellent place to get some of the top BBQ in Texas. Very few places still follow these practices so it's nice to take a little trip back in time to actually see some of the roots of true authentic Texas BBQ and get a feel of what it is like to taste the wholesome goodness of what sauce-less barbecue is all about.