As many already know, Weber publishes a survey every year called the GrillWatch Survey, in fact this is the 21st anniversary of the survey (published in March). In the survey, there is usually some interesting statistics, and in this years, there were some interesting points again. Now, before I begin, as we all know the Weber grill, whether charcoal, or gas grill, has been one of the most popular brands of grills over the years, and this is their survey.
But as usual, I felt this survey had some real interesting points to share, for those of us, that love outdoor cooking. The first and most important point is they say we are using our grill more. Another notable point is we are spending more on our grills, meaning more features, and higher quality grills are starting to get the nod over lower quality grills, driving this statistic. But it is also important to note that 58% surveyed still preferred the taste of food cooked on a charcoal over food cooked on a gas (no surprise here). Maybe one of these years they will include some statistics including smokers.
If your interested in downloading the survey yourself, you can see the results of the survey here http://weber.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=154
By Kevin Bevington
There are many types of smoker you can buy, which include many shapes and sizes. When you’re purchasing a smoker there are only a few things that you really need to keep in mind.
1. How many people do you need to feed?
2. How much money do you want to spend?
3. How much work you want to do?
Just like you see on TV you can actually build a smoker for very little money however, you’re not going to want to use a very low quality smoker to cook for many people. If you plan on cooking professionally as a caterer or as a competitor, you will want to buy a smoker that will allow you to cook a lot of food at one time. If you’re looking to cook in your backyard perhaps for just your family or a few close friends a smaller cooker would be your best bet.
By Kevin Bevington
This is probably the single biggest obstacle to many beginner bbq’rs, in fact the unfortunate thing is many start out with the cheapest smoker they can buy, and don’t understand that they have just purchased a cheap piece of equipment, loaded with design flaws. However, they are fairly easy to overcome if you understand the basics to controlling heat.
First, heat is produced by fire, whether it is wood, charcoal, or gas (we will talk about electric in a minute). A fire needs air to stay lit, right? Most of us somewhere in life have attempted the experiment of putting a candle in a jar, and watched it go out, as soon as it ran out of air. The same applies to a smoker. We can now control the size of the fire, with the amount of air. Increase the amount of air, and you can increase the intensity of the fire (assuming you have enough fuel). Decrease the amount of air, and you reduce the intensity of the fire.
Second, you need to have somewhere for the smoke, and heated air to go. If you put an air tube in the jar with the candle, pushing air in, the candle would still eventually go out, suffocating from it’s own smoke. The same applies to a smoker, you need an escape (or vent) for the smoke and heated air.
We have certainly seen high tech in BBQ the last few years.
With the Digi-Q II, the FEC 100, the Therma-pen, and the list goes on and on. Well, I received this email today from Humberto Evans with nerdkits.com regarding a DIY project that is near and dear to all of our hearts.. A DIY Meat Thermometer with Predictive Filter! uh… ok! I get it, I think.
Humberto Evans and his partner Mike Robbins, both MIT Grads create a video and web page that tells you how to do it. I will let Humberto’s own words explain this for you, and be sure to check out the web page at http://www.nerdkits.com/videos/meat_thermometer/
From Humberto Evans:
Even though cooking is an elegant art form, the at-home chef often has a number of fancy gadgets. From counter top grills to USB coolers, high end electronics have made themselves available in most aspects of modern food preparation and enjoyment. In keeping with our DIY spirit, and with Father’s Day and July 4th grilling right around the corner, we decided to build a DIY Digital Meat Thermometer using a temperature sensor, an LCD, and a microcontroller. To our delight, getting this project to work well required some interesting bits of engineering including advanced signal processing.
In this video tutorial, we outline the process for building the DIY Digital Meat Thermometer. In order to speed up the measured reading, we estimate what the transfer function of the system is and use a predictive filter to “guess” what the actual temperature is at the tip of our probe. The concepts, and the some of the intuition behind it, are presented in our video tutorial. The meat thermometer can be used with a computer to give a live temperature graph, or be used with just the LCD. Whether it’s a fathers day gift, or just a fun weekend project, this little gadget is sure to draw some attention at the next family cookout.”
HomeBBQ.com wins Grand Champion in this first ever Invitational event for the Florida Barbeque Association, that hosted 10 teams from each of the qualifying states of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
Contest Results are as follows;
1 HomeBBQ.com 758.96666
2 Jus-Fer-Fun 758.84999
3 Bub-Ba-Q 755.95001
4 HoocheeQue 751.33336
5 Mount Dora Bar-B-Que Company
6 Forrest’s Fine Foods 747.90001
7 Munchees Smokehouse 747.83333
8 Jacks Old South 746.35001
9 Swamp Boys 743.46665
10 Pork Avenue BBQ 743.13333
11 J & J ’s southern smokers 742.33335
12 Uncle Kenny’s BBQ 738.78335
13 GB’s BBQ 738.39999
14 Bubba Chuck 738.31667
15 Team Bobby-Q 737.28333
16 Big Papa’s Country Kitchen 735.95000
17 Tiger Creek BBQ 734.95001
18 Fine’ly Ready BBQ 732.59999
19 Red Baron BBQ 728.98333
20 This Butt’s For You 728.08334
21 Big Daddy Q 727.93335
22 The Ross Team 726.41666
23 Kick the Tire, Light the Fire 725.11666
24 Barbeque Crew 723.78334
25 Flirtin’ with Disaster 721.38332
26 DW’s Kountry Cookers 720.46669
27 Mr. Cook’s Portable Smokehouse 710.39998
28 Bethel Smokers 697.54997
29 Kinfolks BBQ 676.69999
1 Bubba Chuck 194.54999
2 Team Bobby-Q 194.28333
3 HoocheeQue 192.56668
4 Bub-Ba-Q 192.43334
5 RED BARON BBQ 191.36666
6 Tiger Creek BBQ 190.21668
7 Mr. Cook’s Portable Smokehouse 188.86667
8 Mount Dora Bar-B-Que Company 188.41667
9 HomeBBQ.com 187.65000
10 Munchees Smokehouse 187.06666
1 HomeBBQ.com 191.66667
2 Jus-Fer-Fun 191.43334
3 Forrest’s Fine Foods 191.43332
4 HoocheeQue 190.50000
5 Kick the Tire, Light the Fire 189.79999
6 Bub-Ba-Q 189.24999
7 Mount Dora Bar-B-Que Company 188.53333
8 J & J ’s southern smokers 187.81667
9 Tiger Creek BBQ 187.00000
10 Fine’ly Ready BBQ 186.96666
1 Jus-Fer-Fun 194.49999
2 Jacks Old South 192.65001
3 Big Papa’s Country Kitchen 190.00000
4 Bub-Ba-Q 188.65001
5 Pork Avenue BBQ 187.40000
6 Munchees Smokehouse 187.26667
7 This Butt’s For You 186.93334
8 HomeBBQ.com 186.49999
9 J & J ’s southern smokers 186.23333
10 Team Bobby-Q 185.75000
1 HomeBBQ.com 193.15000
2 Jacks Old South 192.16668
3 Jus-Fer-Fun 191.44999
4 Swamp Boys 190.56666
5 Pork Avenue BBQ 190.11666
6 Forrest’s Fine Foods 189.50001
7 Mount Dora Bar-B-Que Company 188.61666
8 Big Papa’s Country Kitchen 188.58334
9 Munchees Smokehouse 187.94999
10 GB’s BBQ 187.41666
It seems that fried Turkey may not be as popular as it once was, and turkey on a smoker may be coming back for some, and the usual way to cook Thanksgiving dinner for others.
A few imortant things to keep in mind when cooking a turkey in the smoker;
1. The best size to smoke is no larger than 14 lbs, above that, depending on the type of smoker you have, airflow, and consistent temp may be an issue.
2. If your cooking your bird on an offset cooker, consider putting cheese cloth over top of the turkey while it cooks. This will prevent ash and creosote from ruining your Thanksgiving Turkey.
3. Last, but certainly not least, be very careful with the smoke. Turkey is a very mild flavor, so a very light smoke is all it needs.
Below is a segment from my DVD “Backyard BBQ with HomeBBQ.com”, this segment is fixing Turkey. The video itself is from my channel on YouTube.. Enjoy!
The HomeBBQ.com DVD’s can be purchased through www.homebbqvideo.com or Amazon.com
As I try to shake the rust off, get the cookers cleaned, the trailer ready, meats lined up. We are cooking next weekend (9-27-08) at the Grant BBQ Fest in Grant, FL. If you are anywhere within driving distance to Grant Florida next weekend. This is one contest, you really should not miss. This is the same organizers of the famous Seafood Fest that is put on every year in Grant.
As always there will be a very strong lineup of teams trying to win this contest, and the chance to get invited to the Jack Daniels Invitational.
This contest also benifits a great cause, and that is Toys For Kids. There will be plenty of activities for kids, live music, and lots of BBQ to eat, as in this event many teams will be selling their BBQ, and the proceeds goes to this great cause.
As I said before. If your anywhere within driving distance to this contest, come over next weekend and check it out, and make sure you stop by us and say hi. You can find out more information about this event here http://www.grantbbqfest.com/
Not too often will you see me discuss outside of the realm of BBQ, but today you will. Those that know me, know that music is and always has been a big part of my life. And, for those that have known me for a long time know, that several years back (in the late 70’s, and early 80’s) a friend of mine named Al Brodie and myself, ran a small sound and lighting company, and in doing the sound and lighting for some small, and and even a couple of very well known groups. We also spent much time trying to promote local talent, and it was always exciting when you came accross an individual that you knew was something special.
But, back then was nothing like today, many very special talents went undiscovered. Where today, we have the internet, and something called reality TV shows.
There are 2 in particular that have really stepped into the forefront, and those shows are American Idol, and America’s Got Talent. I really enjoy these shows, because it really allows you to see some real raw talent, develop into stars. America’s Got Talent will be showcasing their Final’s for 2008 next week, and they have the strongest top 5 field they have had since the show started. There are at least 3 (and maybe 4) of the top 5 that have the potential to become superstars.
There are 2 acts I believe, have separated themselves from a very talented top 5, and in my opinion they are Nuttin’ But Strings, who bring incredible originality, and entertainment value to their act.
And my favorite in this competition is a young man by the name of Eli Mattson. Eli is truelly something special, a cross somewhere between Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Hornsby, and some Eddie Vedder mixed in, has shown he can take you on a journey into a song, like very few can. Good luck next week Eli, its time to become a champion, and good luck as well to the rest of the top 5 in this competition.
I will leave you with a very special performance given by Eli, on America’s Got Talent.
Sometime back in 1999 or thereabouts Jim Minion was participating in a regional barbeque championship in the Pacific Northwest. His cooker of choice was a Weber Smokey Mountain.
However, following the manufacturer’s instructions on building a fire in this otherwise wonderful smoker proved useless as the fire would quickly shoot up to well over 325 degrees. What to do, what to do?
Jim Minion, a fleet manager for an auto sales company, tried something different – he spread a layer of lighted briquettes over a pile of unlit briquettes and he found that he could maintain a steady fire for as long as 22 hours in his Weber Smokey Mountain. He took a first and a second in two categories that day and the Minion Method was born.
About that same time I was having incredible difficulty holding a steady temp for any decent length of time in my Hondo offset. I came across a description of the Minion Method on the Internet and decided to give it a try. I filled the firebox with Kingsford briquettes as recommended, lit a Weber chimney filled with briquettes, dumped them on top and for the very first time I held a rock steady 220 for four hours, but then the fire choked itself out from all the ash produced by the briquettes. But heck, that was a whole lot better than before.
My wife’s uncle, one of the most fun individuals I have every had the pleasure of knowing (he was one of those people who, from the moment they walk into the room you know you are about to have a great time), and a true lover of ‘que was visiting and he wanted me to fire up the barbeque. As an incentive he brought me a bag of lump charcoal. Not wanting to insult a guest, I fired up my Hondo using the Minion Method with the ump charcoal.
I fully expected a disaster as everything I read about the Minion Method said to use briquettes. Instead I was stunned – I quickly got the fire settled down to 220 and it stayed there – and held – and held – and 8 hours later the temp was still reading 220! By then I was done and removed the meat from the smoker
but it was another two hours before the temp dropped.
A convert was born!
That was several years ago and I’ve learned a lot since then. Most important is that not all lump charcoals are the same. Some will only hold a steady fire for about 4 hours. The average lump will give you about 6 hours. The best lumps will hold 220 for 10 hours or more. Other things that will affect the burn time are outdoor weather conditions, the make/model of smoker you have, and the temp at which you are cooking. I have also learned that once you learn the individual quirks of your smoker you can “dial in” any temp you want by making small adjustments to the chimney damper and/or the air intake control.
For the longest, steadiest burn times I recommend you get the best quality hardwood lump charcoal you can find. Briquettes will work, however they produce so much ash that the fire chokes itself out within about 4 hours. High quality hardwood lump charcoal burns hotter produces very little ash resulting in a much longer burn time.
Fill the firebox with charcoal all the way to the lip of the opening between the firebox and the cooking chamber then hollow out ever so slightly — about an inch or so — just enough to make the pile slightly concave — a small area in the middle by pushing the charcoal up around the sides a little.
Fill a Weber chimney with charcoal and light it. When it is going real good (all coals glowing) then pour it all on top of the charcoal in the firebox, keeping it centered as much as possible.
Close the lids but leave all the vents (air intake and chimney) wide open. When the temp reaches 275 – 300 degrees, begin closing the air intake. Close the air intake half way then check the temp in 15 minutes. If it is too high, close the intake half way again and check in 15 minutes. If still too high, close the air intake all the way. Check again in 15 minutes. If the temp is still too high and ALL VISIBLE SMOKE DISAPPEARS, begin closing the chimney — you guessed it – half way. Check again in 15 minutes, etc. At some point the temp will stabilize — check the vents and remember where they were as that will be your starting point next time — in other words, after the initial temp has reached 275-300, then you can close the vents down to your starting point rather than repeating the entire procedure again. The fire will slowly burn down through the pile of charcoal providing a nice, long, steady burn.
So, all of us backyard pitmasters owe Jim Minion a huge thumbs up for daring to try something different and making top notch barbeque a breeze.
Til next time, keep on cookin’!
My name is Dan Colmerauer – aka “Big Dan.” You may know me from my booklet on how to modify a “backyard” offset smoker to make it perform better. The majority of my articles will deal with what goes into building proper fire in your smoker and related topics – but I will diverge from that from time to time. By the way, I will accept questions and comments via e-mail at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org – I try to reply to any and all e-mails but I do not use my computer on weekends and sometimes it may take a day or two before I have time to reply so please be patient.
I am a backyard cooker only — I don’t do catering or cook-offs, etc. I have, however, been barbequing in one form or another for almost 35 years. Originally from Buffalo, New York I was often seen barbequing and grilling even in middle of the biggest snow storms. I now live in Phoenix, Arizona where some days in the summer I swear all you need to do is put the meat in your smoker and wheel the smoker out into the sun. I have a Hondo offset smoker, a Weber Smoky Mountain, a Weber “kettle” grill, and a barrel smoker and I use them all.
Knowing how to build and maintain a fire is the most important part of barbequing. You can have the greatest recipe in the world – buy the best quality meat you can find – yet if you can’t build and maintain a long, steady fire, your final product will suffer.
Today, I’d like to discuss fuel. There are three basic fuels for barbeque: wood, lump charcoal and briquettes.
Typical briquettes are made from powdered charcoal mixed with binders and fillers such as coal dust. Their biggest advantage is an easily controlled, steady fire with very little temperature fluctuation. Their biggest drawback is the large volume of ash produced when burning briquettes. In an offset style smoker the ash will actually build up and snuff out your fire in about 4 hours – not enough time to barbeque much of anything. Plus, there are too many additives that can alter the flavor of the final product for my taste. But, they are inexpensive, readily available, easy to use and certainly can turn out a fairly decent final product.
There are briquettes available (but very hard to find) that are made out of 100% hardwood charcoal and all natural binders. No additives – no strange fillers – just pure 100% hardwood charcoal. I have used Rancher 100% hardwood briquettes and Royal Oak 100% hardwood briquettes and was pleasantly surprised – both at the flavor and the performance. While producing much more ash than lump charcoal, I was still able to maintain a steady 220 for over six hours. And the flavor was a huge improvement over regular briquettes. In an upright “water smoker” such at the Weber Smoky Mountain these are probably the best fuel you can use. I ran mine for over 22 hours with the Rancher briquettes without refueling and still had briquettes left in the smoker to burn. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find either Rancher or Royal Oak 100% hardwood briquettes in over a year.
Natural lump charcoal (sometimes called “charwood”) is my fuel of choice. Lump charcoal is made by burning hardwood in the absence of oxygen. The process burns off all the impurities (creosote, etc.) leaving a final product that is free of all the bad stuff that can ruin the flavor of the meat. It burns hotter than briquettes and a quality lump charcoal will leave very little ash – which means you will achieve a long, steady burning fire which will impart a wonderful “woodsy” flavor to the meat with a nice touch of smoke. There are a large number of brands of lump available – some not much better than briquettes and others darned near the “holy grail” of barbeque fuel. Hopefully, you will have a good brand available in your area.
The ability to use wood as a fuel is seen by many as the hallmark of the true pitmaster. I don’t necessarily agree.
The single most important factor in whether you can successfully use only wood as your fuel source is your smoker. The typical backyard smoker is simply too small to use wood as fuel unless you burn it down to coals first. In fact, many commercial pitmasters (especially in the barbeque belt) will burn the wood down to coals first no matter what type of smoker they have. The reason for this is simple – you want to burn off the impurities before exposing the meat to the smoke.
So — I tried this once. I used over $50 worth of wood – spent six straight hours burning wood and shoveling coals and the ribs came out tasting exactly like they did with lump charcoal. Some Internet research revealed what has since become my mantra: a glowing lump of hardwood charcoal is IDENTICAL to a glowing coal/ember burned down from logs. The only difference is how it got there.
Interestingly enough – at the more recent bbq cook-offs I’ve attended (I do love to eat good ‘que) I’ve noticed that most of the competitors were using lump charcoal in even the biggest of smokers because —- a glowing lump of hardwood charcoal is IDENTICAL to a glowing coal/ember burned down from logs.
Now, what about wood chunks or chips for added smoke flavor. They work, but you have to be very careful because there is a very fine line between a little extra smoke flavor and over-smoked, creosote-coated meat. Cross that line and you’ve ruined a nice hunk of meat (unless, of course, you like the flavor of creosote). This is more of a problem in the offset smokers than with the uprights. The man in Phoenix who sells cooking wood to all the local restaurants taught me a neat trick if you like to use chunks or chips for a stronger smoke flavor. Simply take a piece of heavy duty foil and gently place it on top of the meat – don’t “tent” it and don’t “wrap” it – just gently lay it on top. The foil will catch most of the bad stuff before it settles on the meat leaving the meat exposed to the remaining flavorful part of the smoke.
Next time I’ll discuss exactly how to build a fire using the Minion method for a long, steady fire.
Keep on cookin’!
I was told by my brother in law, Glenn, that at least one time I would want to try to make barbecue my very own…from start to finish. I asked him what he was talking about…he explained.
He told me that I take the time to select and buy the cut of meat I am looking to cook, I trim it and do all the other prep stuff…fire up the cooker and then start the cooking process…which is a long investment of time.
He went on to say that you do all of this, take it off the cooker, hold it while you prepare other items for sides and then put some store bought bbq sauce on your barbecue right before you eat it…He didn’t understand why I would do that.
Well, to be honest, I never had given it a thought…there were rubs already made for me to use…the same thing in regards to sauces. I figured I was just saving some time in certain areas. But he explained that if I would just take the time to learn how to make a rub and a sauce THEN the barbecue would truly be MY OWN! No one else’s mixes or recipes would be in my bbq hence it would be MINE from start to finish.
Just some bbq for thought for you folks who are just getting in to the art. Don’t get me wrong, I use rubs that aren’t mine more then I use my own…but 9-10 times I make my own sauce. I love it…my guests like it…and it just seems to compliment my barbecue.