Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BBQ Pitmasters

On December 3rd, the "BBQ Pitmasters" show kicked off on the TLC network. This reality based show follows designated BBQ competition teams as they participate in various sanctioned contests across the country.

I have watched the first 2 episodes of the show and have enjoyed it. I know that on various BBQ forums there has been a great deal of support for the show but also some concern as well. Like BBQ itself, everyone has a different flavor preference.

I think the BBQ world is very lucky to have an advocate like John Markus who can help promote our sport. He is providing a window into the competition world that many would never look through. I look for the show to bring more people into the competitive BBQ field. In fact, I was hooked several years ago by that first competitve BBQ show that Chris Lilly hosted on OLN.

I have also taken particular delight in watching Myron Mixon tease the audience with some of his techniques (especially the cupcake chicken.) Having recently attended his cook school at his house, it's been fun to see all the cooks on the forums trying to backwards engineer his chicken process as if they were some sort of Cold War era Soviet scientist.

The show conveys that BBQ is something everyone can do but not everyone can win. Working through your processes, techniques and flavor profiles to come up with a winning combination is difficult. Then couple that with the subjectivity of the judges, well, things get interesting and that means anything can or will happen at a contest. This is a lesson that Pablo Diablo found out in the first episode.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

L.C.'s BBQ

I ventured out today into the cold today to meet some friends for lunch. My friend suggested L.C.'s BBQ at 5800 Blue Parkway in Kansas City, MO (it's just a couple of miles west of the Truman Sports Complex). I had heard a lot about L.C.'s but never had made the trip over until today.
Luckily, arriving at 1:15pm meant that the lunch crowd had cleared out and there was plenty of seats to choose from. The place is not very big so I can see where seating could become a premium during the busy lunch hour.
The order process here varied slightly from any other local BBQ joint. You place your order and pay at the counter. When your order is ready they call your number and you pick it back up at the counter.
The menu offered beef, pork, turkey, ribs, chicken, rib tips and burnt ends. Sides include baked beans, fries, slaw and onion rings. I ordered the 2 meat combo sandwich (beef and turkey) which came with fries. I also ordered a side of baked beans and a drink. The total was $16.43.
I sat down at a table and gave the place a quick glance. There was ESPN on the TV in one corner, a self serve soda fountain in the other and Mr. L.C. was sitting at a table pouring through paperwork while conversing with patrons. At the center of my table, there were a couple of rolls of paper towels, a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of L.C.'s BBQ sauce.
The wait for my meal was short. Probably about 4 minutes in all. The sandwich was served on white bread with a slice in the middle to seperate the turkey from the beef. The meat was served sauced which I was not aware of. Had I known, I would have asked for it plain so I could sample the meats on their own merit.
I enjoy turkey and it's hit or miss on whether the local joints carry it. I found the turkey today to be very tasty and had a good smoke flavor. The brisket mirrored the turkey and had a good smoke flavor as well. It was sliced thin which definitely helps make it that much more tender.
As for the sides, the fries were thick cut and very tasty. Just the right amount with the sandwich. The beans were thick with a touch of a sweet/smokey bold flavor and contained pieces of burnt ends. It was a good choice.
The barbecue sauce is tomato based and has a sweet, tangy flavor. It has a similar flavor profile to Gate's sauce but without the peppery taste. It complimented the meat well and was also great for dipping fries into!
I enjoyed my meal today. The portions are large and I was not able to finish my order of beans. You will not go away hungry here! I need to make sure I come hungry on my next visit.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oklahoma Joes - A Brief Review

I had to stop by the KC BBQ store today in Olathe, KS and fortunately it's attached to one of my favorite BBQ joints here in Kansas City-Oklahoma Joes. I don't think I have ever eaten anything bad there. It is always consistently good.

I arrived today at 11:30am and to my surprise walked right up to the register (this is a rarity at lunch) to place my order. I moved to my right and received my order in about 3 minutes. It was nice not having to wait. They really have their process down.
I ordered the sliced brisket sandwich and a side of Cole slaw. The brisket was thinly sliced and had a nice but not overpowering smoke flavor to it. I normally don't order Cole slaw here because they're french fries are the best in town! For whatever reason, I went with the slaw today. It was good but I wished I had ordered the spicy version instead. I prefer that over the regular slaw. My total cost was $9.61 for the sandwich, slaw and drink.

The regular Cowtown sauce and the hotter, Night of the Living Cow, sauce were on the table. I've always been a fan of their regular sauce. It's sweet but has that peppery kick to it. It compliments all of their meats and is great to dip your fries into! I also used some of the Hot Sauce and enjoyed it as well. Its spice hits the front of your tongue first and then goes to your throat but it's minimal.

All in all, I enjoyed my meal today. That is why Oklahoma Joes is always one of my can't miss choices for BBQ in Kansas City.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jack Daniels Invitational 2009

This weekend was the prestigious Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ Competition. Eighty teams from across the world qualified to cook this contest. A big congratulations to our friend Myron Mixon of Jack's Old South for his Reserve Grand Championship there! Also congratulations to all of the participants and those who walked! What a honor to be able to cook there.

Here are the top 10 finishers overall:

Grand Champion: I Que
Reserve Champion: Jack's Old South
1 I Que
2 Jack's Old South
3 Bub-Ba-Q
4 Tee Wayne's Smoking Lipp
5 Parrothead Smokers
6 Spitfire
7 Lakeside Smokers
8 Cool Smoke
9 Mr. Bobo's Traveling BBQ
10 Dizzy Pig

Monday, October 5, 2009

American Royal Weekend 2009

What A Weekend!

The 30th Annual American Royal is in the books and it will be a memorable one!

We arrived at our spot in front of Kemper Arena on Friday morning and began staging our space. Our teammate Darrin is in charge of this and always does an excellent job. This job was complicated by the extremely windy conditions of the day and that we were hosting a party for all of our friends and family that night. Darrin got us dialed in for the weekend. The party was great and we appreciated everyone that came down to see us.

We also had the pleasure of meeting our neighbors, Myron and Faye Mixon, of Jack's Old South cooking team. Both are terrific people and made for an enjoyable weekend. We noticed Myron was drawing a lot of attention and had a film crew taping his every move that day. I later approached him and asked what all the fanfare was about. He explained to me that TLC was shooting a reality show entitled "Pit Masters" and that he was one of 8 teams they had been following on the competition circuit this season. I thought this was a great idea and who better to follow than Myron and Faye?

On Saturday, we had some down time before starting our prep for the Open contest the following day. We were approached by the director and producer of the reality show asking if we were interested in participating in the program. Myron had put in a good word for us and felt like we would be a good subject for a local angle. Also Corey dressed in his cousin Eddie attire didn't hurt in drawing the production peoples' interest.

The film crew came by around midnight to film us in our prep and cook process, as well as, interview us about our backgrounds, etc. This lasted about 30 minutes and with the brisket and pork on the smokers, we went to bed.

Sunday morning we were up at 5:30am. Bundled up to fight the cold weather and guzzling coffee to wake up. In between cooking duties that morning, we stopped by Myron's space several times and were allowed access to his private prep area to watch him and his wife do their magic. The film crew taped us as we asked him questions about his processes. We also discussed judging, presentations, cook times, meat selection, rubs and sauces just to mention a few. We were able to sample his rubs and sauces as well. Brant took the lead in the Q&A sessions as they were being filmed. He should hopefully get us a lot of face time on the show.

As we approached turn-in time, we were busy scrambling to make sure everything was completed on time. The film crew came by and filmed us as we put our boxes together and took them to the judging turn-in area. Darrin had some fun with the cameras spreading sauce on his face and making it look like he had been eating out of our turn in box while carrying it to the judging area.

We felt our chicken, ribs, pork and brisket all tasted well. It was different trying to put our boxes together knowing we were being taped. I tried my best to put it out of my mind. Our box presentation looked good and we thought we should hopefully have a respectable showing in the standings.

After our last turn-in, the film crew asked that we hang around so they could film some intro shots for their show. They also had reserved some seats for us at the award ceremony and asked that we all attend. Normally I stay for the award ceremonies after each contest we cook. The rest of the guys are usually pretty eager to get home. It was nice that everyone stayed.

We packed our vehicles and headed for the award ceremony at the requested time. The Royal ceremony is always fun because everyone gets a chance to relax and wind down from all of the weekend's work. It's also fun to see our other BBQ friends get calls during the ceremony. Everyone works so hard and puts their heart and soul into what they cook that they deserve some recognition. This ceremony is also a little longer as there are several side categories that are awarded out to first before the main categories are awarded.

Chicken was the first category to be awarded. The emcee began to read the winners names starting with 20th place. He began to call a lot of familiar names off of the winners list. Then he came to number 3 overall and called our team name! I was in shock. We all got up and took our place on the #3 spot on the stage holding our 3rd place ribbon high. The camera crew had been filming us the whole ceremony and captured our special moment. We were on cloud nine. I was glad that my wife and kids were there to share it with me too. We had no other calls but none of us cared.

We finished our post ceremony interview for the show and our thank you interview to Myron for all of his guidance. We headed back to our space and had a celebratory drink!

Our overall finish was 128th out of 486 teams. Ribs finished 59th, Brisket 152nd and Pork 433rd. Pork killed us! Not sure what went wrong because it was cooked the same way we did last year and that entry finished 48th. We could have cracked the top 75 overall thanks to the Pork.
It was a great time. Many thanks to my teammates for making this a special weekend! Without them none of this happens.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BBQ Review of Dickey's Barbecue Pit

I had lunch today at the recently opened Dickey's Barbecue Pit located at the new Tiffany Springs shopping complex in Kansas City North. Dickey's is out of Dallas, TX and was founded in 1941. According to their website, they have been franchising out for the last 8 years and have doubled their size since then. There is another location in Overland Park, KS and one coming soon to Parkville, MO. As you can see by the photo, it's not a huge place and they probably have about 25 to 30 tables.

They offer 4 different sizes of barbecue sandwiches with your choice of pulled pork, sliced or chopped brisket, ham, turkey breast, chicken breast, polish sausage or hot links. Pork ribs are available as well. Prices range from $3.99 to $6.59 per sandwich. There are also meat plates available ranging from $4.25 to $7.50.

Sides are extra or can be purchased in a combo deal with your sandwich or plate. Sides offered are waffle fries, coleslaw, caesar salad, fried onion tanglers, grean beans, potato salad, bbq beans, jalapeno beans, fried okra, mac & cheese and baked potato casserole.

The restaurant is new and is decorated with your typical wood and metal decor. When you enter you line up, place your order and move down to pay and pick up your order. It is similar to the process at Oklahoma Joe's but was a little slower. It looked like they were still trying to work out their ordering kinks. I noticed all the meat was stored in a glass door warmer wrapped in plastic wrap. As you place your order, they remove the meat from the warmer and slice/chop to order. You then step to your right and order your sides. Then a final step to your right to choose your drink size and pay. This whole process took about 10 to 12 minutes from door to seat. I will say I was there in the heart of the lunch hour at 12:25pm.

I ordered the sliced brisket on bun, side of bbq beans and a large drink. The total was $7.85. After paying, I walked over to the condiment counter where they offered 3 different sauces (Hot & Spicy, Original and Sweet.) I took a sample of all 3 to try.

The brisket was tender and sliced fairly thin. It had a smoke flavor but I really didn't notice much of a smoke ring. There was not a lot of noticeable bark on the meat but that could be due to the thin slices and that there wasn't a lot of surface for the bark to adhere to once sliced.

The bbq beans were average. They were not sweet as most places sell them here. There was a hint of smoke flavor to them though.

All 3 sauces were thin and sweet. I think I like the Hot & Spicy the best. You can taste the sweet and tangy and then the bite of the heat hits you. I usually like my sauce just a little thicker than this but I still enjoyed it. As for the other two, the Original had the same sweet and tangy taste without the heat. I found the Sweet to be pretty similar to the Original. All 3 sauces were kept in warmers on the counter.

Overall, I thought the food was good and I will return to try the ribs and pulled pork before I make a final decision. The staff was friendly and the restaurant was very clean. The options of eating barbecue in the Northland are somewhat limited but I would place Dickey's in the upper part of my list.

BBQ at Kaufman Stadium

The Royal's had their employee picnic last night at the Stadium. I was expecting hotdogs but was surprised that we were served barbecue.

In the Outfield Experience, they sell barbecue which is actually smoked on the premises (I still need to verify this) by Aramark. I have been tempted a couple of times to go out there on my break and buy some. The high price has deterred me this season so far.

Before a rousing game of softball on the playing field, they served us ribs and chicken along with sides. The ribs were okay and were slathered in a sweet, mild sauce. The chicken had very little smoke or spice flavor. I was not impressed. Too bad Gates is no longer in the stadium. I guess I'll save my money and not buy any barbecue out there this year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Garnish Dilemma

I received the below email today from KCBS regarding a garnish issue:

PARSLEY Temporary Rule Change Effective IMMEDIATELY
The following rule change is being put into effect because of the RECALL of PARSLEY in 10 states due to the risk of salmonella contamination and food poisoning. The states involved in the recall include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
As a result, the Board of Directors has issued the follow advisory and rule change for all KCBS-sanctioned contests held between September 16 and September 20, 2009.
The use of all types of parsley (including, but not limited to, curly, flat leaf, Italian or any other type) and cilantro is prohibited and shall constitute an illegal garnish and therefore be disqualified.
The decision to ban the use of parsley and cilantro is made out of abundant caution and concern for the protection of all participants, including cooks, judges and visitors, as well as the effect that the use of parsley could have on a judge who may be concerned the product he or she is judging could be contaminated. This decision is made in the interest of safety and fair competition.
This ban is only for the period stated and will not affect any other future competition unless the FDA or other authorities issue additional warnings.
Sincerely,The KCBS Office

I'm not a big fan of garnish and wish they would do away with it for turn-in boxes! We make parsley boxes and they are very time consuming. Things would be so much easier without all the salad in the way. It would leave more time for beer drinking!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Is Heating Up!

The month of September is a busy one on the KCBS circuit. There were 14 KCBS sanctioned contests the weekend of 9/11/09 across the country. Three of these were held in the Kansas City metro area. The Blue Springs Blaze Off, the Annual Charity BBQ in Leavenworth and the Cross Points BBQ Cookoff in Shawnee all took place this past weekend. Blue Springs is typically a big draw and was again this year with 80 teams competing. Congrats to the Plowboys for their Grand Championship win there! Likewise for the Crimson & Blue Crew outdueling 29 other teams in Leavenworth and Wild Blue BBQ 34 others in Shawnee to post their victories.

This coming weekend will see 11 more sanctioned events with 2 of those taking place in the KC metro area (Mission, KS and Kearney, MO.)

What the hell does this have to do with us?

Well, typically at this point in the season, we would be participating in one of these events to help get us tuned up for the Royal and shake off some of the rust. However, the economics of it have hit us hard this year and we have to skip the tuneup this year. There's always next year!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our 9/11 Tribute

Countdown to the American Royal!

October 1-4, 2009
Kemper Arena
Kansas City, MO
The 30th Annual American Royal BBQ Contest is right around the corner. Once again, Holla-N-Swalla will be participating in the "Open" portion of this contest. This will mark our fourth year participating in this great event!
For those of you not familiar with the American Royal, it is the largest BBQ contest in the world and is sanctioned by the Kansas City BBQ Society. There is an Invitational contest which takes place on Saturday (10/3) and involves approximately 100 teams vying for the top prize of ten thousand dollars. Since we do not meet the criteria to compete in the Invitational we will cook in the Open contest which takes place on Sunday. Typically, there are anywhere from 400 to 500 teams competing in the Open. The grand prize this year is $12,500 dollars and invitations to next years American Royal contest as well as the highly prized Jack Daniels invitational contest in Lynchburg, TN. There are also cash prizes, trophies and ribbons for finishing in the top 20 for each judged category.
With so many teams participating in the Open, you really have to be on your game to be lucky enough to have a Top 20 finish in any category. The subjectivity involved with judging , like most contests, makes this a real crapshoot. Often times, entries we think aren't very good tend to do well and the entries that we think rock are our worst scores. Take a look at last year's scores:
2008 Open Scores
Overall 135th out of 458
Chicken 322nd out of 458 (Ouch!)
Ribs 92nd out of 458
Pork 48th out of 458
Brisket 238th out of 458 (C'mon on judges!)
As you can see, Ribs and Pork weren't too bad but Brisket and especially Chicken killed us! The funny thing was our chicken had been our strongest finisher in all of our 2008 contests. Go figure?
We have really enjoyed cooking this event in the past and we are looking forward to this year. We will be in our same space, #756, this year as last year. Our space is located in front of Kemper Arena right by the Wyoming gate entrance. This year we also will have a very prestigious neighbor. Myron Mixon's team, Jack's Old South, who has won several world titles will be next to us. Hopefully some of their mojo will rub off on us!
If you are in the area that weekend, stop by and say hi. We love talking Q!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Brisket Cooking Tips

In professional BBQ competitions, brisket separates the men from the boys. Every team has their own special ritual to prepare the beef primal cut known as brisket.

Brisket essentials:
  • long slow cooking over low heat
  • internal temp of 190 F
  • achieve temp gradually
  • rush it & it tastes like rubber
How long do I cook?
  • some teams cook up to 20 hours
  • plan on cooking at least 6 hours

The Holla-N-Swalla squad cooked the brisket pictured above in approximately 7 hours.

For extra flavor & tenderness mop the brisket with a vinegar-beer mop as it cooks.

Approximately four hours into cook, wrap brisket in aluminum foil and place back on smoker. This helps keep the brisket tender during cooking.

Pulled Pork Tostadas
with Guacamole

  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp prepared chili powder
1 boneless pork shoulder roast {Boston Butt}, about 4 pounds

  • 8 ripe avocados
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups good-quality spicy tomato salsa
1 large bag sturdy tortilla chips

1. To make the rub: In a small bowl, mix the rub ingredients with your fingers.
2. Coat the roast to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
3. Grill the roast over Indirect medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees about 4 hours. Adjust the grill's temperature so it stays about 325. The meat should be so tender it pulls apart easily. Remove the roast from the grill, place it on a cutting board, and loosely cover with foil. Let rest for about 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the guacamole: Scoop the avocado flesh into a medium bowl. Add the lime juice and salt and, using the back of a fork, mash the guacamole together. Stir in the cilantro. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent browning.
5. Using two forks, pull the pork apart into shreds, discarding any pockets of fat. If desired, finely chop the pork with a knife. Place the shredded pork in a large saucepan over medium heat and moisten with the salsa.
6. To serve, place about one tablespoon of pork on each tortilla chip. Top with about half as much guacamole. Serve while the pork is warm.

Or you could....

Come to the Holla-N-Swalla space at the American Royal. If we have any extra pork butt, your welcome to take some home. Just add the guacamole & salsa to the chips, and your good to go!

I got this recipe from Weber's Real Grilling.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In The Beginning......

Welcome to the Blog! I wanted to document the journey of our little bbq team that could. We were bit by the bbq bug and started competing in 2006. We decided to cook the American Royal Open as our first contest! We had no idea what we were doing and finished 199th overall. If I recall right, our pork entry finished 35th overall. Thanks to the available bbq forums and the kind cooks who post on them, we at least didn't make total fools of overselves. We've learned alot since then and are still on the long journey to obtaining that elusive grand championship.

There are 4 of us on the team. That really helps defray some of the costs when you can divide it by four. Brant, Darrin, Corey and myself have been cooking together since 2007. Originally Brant and myself cooked that first contest in 2006 with another friend of ours. Thankfully we added Darrin and his brother Corey and have formed a very solid team. It really makes a difference when everyone gets along and has fun doing it!