Monday, May 30, 2016

Practice Competition Rib Cook

I need practice on my competition ribs because at Sevierville* last weekend I averaged 8's for taste and tenderness which isn't going to cut it for what we want to do.  Just under 2 years ago we did our first contest and were happy just to complete every category without finishing DAL.  Now if we don't get 9-9-9's (KCBS scores 0-9 from each judge for appearance, taste, and tenderness), we're not satisfied.

So this cook was just a baseline to focus on the details of our rib program without being distracted at a contest and then figure out where I need to improve for our next contest in a few weeks.  

Custom kamado grill colors from Grill Dome
My Grill Dome didn't make it back to the deck after last weekend's contest so I just rolled it out front on Saturday.  Never noticed until now that it is almost a perfect match for Trevor's car.  You can get Grill Domes in custom colors but this was just a stock color.

My highest rib score was 6th place at Sevierville last year when I cooked them on an Adjustable Rig but since then I've been using a homemade raised rack.  Typically we run 4 racks of ribs.  Using the raised rack means the bottom 2 ribs are close to the heat deflector so the ends can overcook.   So time to go back to the A/R.

oval heat deflectors and kick ash basket for the BGE Mini-Max
To get back to using the Adjustable Rigs, I bought a set of oval heat deflectors from the Ceramic Grill Store.  (And a Kick Ash Basket for the Mini-Max!)  The longer heat deflectors are what they recommend for rib and brisket set ups anyway and I should have bought one that way to begin with.

Replaced my broken Grill Dome firebox with one from Big Green Egg
This cook was the maiden voyage for a new fire box that I bought from Hearth and Patio this weekend.  So ivory...for now.

Ceramic Grill Store's Adjustable Rig gives you the most flexible set up for kamado grilling.
Here is a side view of the full A/R set up.  The main advantages for this specific set up are 1) the oval heat deflector protects the rib ends and 2) the 4 racks of ribs sit higher up in the dome for more even cooking.

How to smoke ribs like the professionals
One of the biggest issues with our ribs has been consistency of suppliers. I've gone back and forth. These were IBP because I couldn't get my usual ones this weekend.  I'm definitely sticking with Cheshire Heritage Pork ribs, our best ribs this year have been theirs. No more jumping around.

how to make competition quality BBQ ribs
This set up is great for getting the racks away from any hot spots. The downside is that the ribs on the upper rack are very near the thermometer stem, which will throw off temperature readings, making them seem artificially low.  I have a fix for that.

Thermoworks ribs
I took an air temperature probe for my ThermaQ and clipped it just below the upper grate to get a more accurate temperature reading.  Kamado grill tip: Pulling the dome thermometer out a little bit will also help by getting the tip of the thermometer further away from the cold meat.

ThermaQ is my favorite tool for accurate temperature measurments
The temperature difference due to the cold meat only lasted for the first hour or two.  Once the meat was cooking, the dome thermometer came up and matched the ThermaQ.  

We also use big green egg and vision grills in competition BBQ
Getting close to wrapping time.

How to make competition ribs on a primo grill, BGE, or kamado joe.
Another benefit to the A/R set up is that I can just slide the rib racks out and shut the dome, doing a better job of maintaining cooking temps.  I don't do anything much different than the majority of top comp teams for the wrap ingredients.

Competition style ribs at home
This is after coming back out of the foil.  Lighting is harsh but whatevs...

BBQ ribs on a kamado grill, how to make competition style ribs on a BGE
Sauced and back on for a brief kiss of smoke before boxing.

Sliced.  Not much of a smoke ring.  KCBS Certified BBQ Judges (3 of our teammates are CBJ's) are not supposed to judge based on smoke rings but I think it still makes a difference.  I just need to make sure the ribs are nice and cold when they go on and make sure I spritz the ribs when they first go on instead of waiting for the first hour to pass.  Moisture helps the nitrogen compounds in smoke convert and bond more easily to the myoglobin in the meat, keeping it pink. 

Competition style BBQ ribs made at home on a kamado style grill.
Practice box.  Appearance hasn't been an issue, I pretty much get 9's for that.  But this box  still bugs me.  I should be using ribs from the same rack or two so they aren't all herky-jerky at the top like these.  The garnish is lighter at the top of the box versus the bottom.  I'll take the color and the evenly exposed bones but definitely room for improvement.

So these are good but I have some things that I will adjust.  I'm going to reduce or eliminate one of the three rubs.  Once that is set I'll test a few sauce changes (you only ever change 1 thing at a time). Finally for tenderness, I think I've taken too much time to foil the ribs which means less time in the wrap.  I've streamlined that process to minimize time off the grill.

You might think I am nit-picking here.  But any competition team will tell you that less than 1 point can make the difference between Top 10 and everyone else.  

If BBQ competitions intrigue you, check out a local event.  It's a great thing to get involved in as an organizer, volunteer, judge, or competitor.  Here are some lists of events for different organizations.  We like KCBS but there are lots of solid groups.

Kansas City BBQ Society (biggest, most widely recognized IMO)

Standard FTC Disclosure:  I received no compensation for this post.  We have no affiliation with Grill Dome (sponsor last year), Ceramic Grill Store, Hearth and Patio, or Cheshire Pork.  We have good working relationships with Thermaworks and Kick Ash Basket but paid full price for their products shown.

*Full report on the report coming up later

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Burger Month: Poblano and Pimento Cheese Sliders with Home Cured Bacon

May is National Burger Month and Kita over at Girl Carnivore has rounded up a great cadre of burgers for every day of the month from food bloggers across the interwebs thingy.  Probably despite her best judgement, Kita invited me to contribute again this year.

I decided to go pub style this year with a pimento cheese burger but put a few special twists on it. First of all, my pimento cheese, really isn't pimento cheese.  I find the jarred pimentos lacking in flavor so I made a "fire roasted poblano and red bell pepper cheese spread sort of like pimento cheese".  You can see why I still just call it pimento cheese.  

I also upped the bacon ante by curing and smoking my own bacon.  I realize that not many people are going to bother with making their own bacon so I won't make it a part of the recipe.  But you really should try it some time.  I did a version of Chris Lilly's Pepper Maple Bacon except we made Pepper Honey Bacon.  Chris' right hand man at Big Bob Gibson's BBQ is Ken Hess who also happens to be a beekeeper and I had some honey from his Jive Hive, so I used it.  

how to cure and smoke bacon at home, big green egg bacon, kamado bacon
This is a section of a 12lb pork belly that we got from Willy's Butcher Shop in Knoxville.  I smoked it on a ceramic kamado grill (Big Green Egg this time) with some hickory wood.

Kamado Joe bacon, primo bacon, vision bacon, grilldome bacon
I smoked it to an internal temperature of 155°f.  For full details, I have previously done a post on How I Smoke Bacon on a Kamado Grill. 
After smoking, I chilled the bacon for 24 hours to make it easier to slice.  Plus I think it needs a rest after smoking.  I sliced most of it but cubed the end pieces to use as seasoning in things like pinto beans, collard greens, and things like that. 
If you don't want to cure the bacon at home, see if you can find Benton's Bacon.  It's well known in upper echelon restaurants.  It's made here locally using old fashion techniques (they use a real smokehouse, not flash smoking slices or injecting smoke solutions like commercial bacon).  For the burger seasoning, I used a simple rub of 4 parts coarse black pepper, 3 parts Kosher salt, and 2 parts granulated garlic.

pub style sliders burger at home

Poblano and Pimento Cheese Sliders with Pepper Honey Bacon

Published 05/26/16


  • 24 ounces ground beef
  • 4 pretzel slider buns
  • 1.5 teaspoons burger seasoning
  • 4 slices pepper honey bacon, halved
For the sort of pimento cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fire roasted poblano peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon season salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon BBQ rub
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ancho chile
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper


  1. Char a red bell pepper and a poblano chile on a hot grill.  Here's how to fire roast a chile pepper.  
  2. Mix together pimento cheese ingredients together in a large bowl until it is well blended together.  Allow to chill for at least 1 hour before using.
  3. Cook bacon until crispy and set aside.
  4. Divide the ground beef into six 3-ounce portions and form them into 3" patties.
  5. Set up your grill for direct heat and pre-heat it to 450°f.
  6. Just before putting the burgers on the grill, lightly oil the grill grates and season the patties on both sides with whatever burger seasoning you wish to use.  
  7. Grill the burgers for 4 minutes a side and remove from the grill.  Note:  I don't like medium rare burgers unless I ground the meat myself.  If you choose to do so, shorten the cook times.
  8. Assemble the burgers with a burger on the bottom bun topped with a spoonful of the pimento cheese, another pattie, the bacon and of course, the top bun.  
Yield: 4 sliders that won't leave you hungry

Fresh vegetables always taste better. 

Chop off the butt end, slice it open and scrape out the insides.

A grapefruit spoon is a grate tool for lightly scraping off the charred skin.

The roasted chiles really boost the flavor of pimento cheese.  Of course homemade pimento cheese isn't the weird day-glow orange color that you see in most store bought versions.

We're still working on the tater tot recipe but we took shredded potatoes, dried onion, pepper, salt, parsley and garlic and mixed it with a batter of flour, egg, and beer.  

We deep fried the tots until golden, about 5-6 minutes.

I didn't season the burgers until immediately before they go onto the grill.

I cooked these on the first kamado I ever got, my first large BGE.  

Typically I go about 4 minutes per side but what I'm really watching for is to see the burgers start to expel juice out of the top like this.  That tells me they are ready to flip.

Burgers finishing up on the grill.
Despite having a small footprint, these sliders have over a third pound of beef so they won't leave you hungry!

You can check out all of the other epic burger ideas by clicking on the pictures at Girl Carnivore. Kita has also set up a great selection of prizes for giveaways.  The following are this week's giveaways.

  • Swissmar Glow 7PC Fondue Set ($15.00)
  • American Lamb
  • Cabot cheesebox
  • Cert Angus Beef
  • Charbroil Grill
  • Cowboy Charcoal Samplers
  • cutting board
  • GrillMasters Club Box

Where this epic burger creation is my own for #BurgerMonth 2016, I would love to thank American Lamb Board, Char-broil, Cowboy Charcoal, Swissmar, Cabot

Enter the giveaway below on Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Where this epic burger creation is my own for #BurgerMonth 2016, I would love to thank American Lamb Board, Char-broil, Cowboy Charcoal, Swissmar, Cabot

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunshine State Eggfest 2016

Wow, it has been a busy month and I am so behind on posting.  Let's play catch up.

Last month, I attended the Sunshine State Eggfest in Cape Canveral/Cocoa Beach, Florida.  Here are the key players in an Eggfest.
  • Organizer(s) - This is the person or entity that actually coordinates everything from marketing, logistics, charity partners, etc.  Lots of work, no pay, and little sleep.
  • Dealer - the local Egg dealer or regional distributor that provides all of the Big Green Eggs (anywhere from 20 to 100) and typically is selling accessories on site.  The Eggs are new and used that day only, then sold off as "demo Eggs" at substantial discounts.  The vast majority of these are sold the day of the event if not already pre-sold.
  • Cooks (cook teams) - Small groups of volunteers typically consisting of Big Green Egg fans, local restaurants, and civic groups.  These teams bring food at their own expense and cook various recipes for samples to serve to Tasters.
  • Tasters - Guests who buy tickets to sample the food being served by the cook teams.
  • Celebrity Appearances - Bigger events try to have guest appearances by "Egg celebrities". They might teach a class, judge entries, or do a book signing.  This includes people like Dr. BBQ, Linkie Marais, and Moe Cason as well as "internet celebrities" like Big Green Craig and myself.  
For this event, I was on a cook team headed up by my sister.  I wasn't sure she was going to make it because she was feeling under the weather big time but she rallied for the event.  Also on our team were both of her next door neighbors - Ed and Laurie and Cade and Amanda.  Rounding out the team were two of my great friends from back in the day - Carson and Scott.  

Here is the photo dump....
My BGE Mini-Max road shotgun on the way down to Florida.  As far as a riding partner goes, he wasn't a great conversationalist but at least he didn't try to change the radio channel.

Made a brief stop in Jax to pick up my surfboards.

Next stop - Eggfest! 

The dealer for this Eggfest is Wassi's Meat Market.  Here they are setting up their sales area.

This is a typical price at an Eggfest and a good price.

Wassi's brought not only their own stuff and staff, but also brought in representatives from suppliers such as Ceramic Grill Store, Kick Ash Basket, and Flame Boss.

Cook Team Captains Meeting is where the organizer covers the schedule and any event specific issues.

One of our "fake friends" (this is what we call our Facebook friends in a group that I'm in - fantastic group of people) made our team this amazing wood sign - there is no stain, that is all different colors of wood.

Eggfest site the day before.  Looks rather calm now but at 8am it will be crazy.

Big Green Craig and I ready to go surfing with our new friend.

I like getting into Eggfests early so we can socialize with folks like Chad from Kick Ash Basket.  And yes, by "socialize" I mean drink by the pool.  

Like mushrooms the morning after a rain, canopies popped up out of nowhere and the event was on.

We were set up in a GREAT section next to some of our friends.

Ruh-roh....threatening clouds acted showed up but fortunately, they stayed away.

Our menu for the Eggfest.  We made the beer bread with cream cheese in the morning but we did the potatoes and pickles all day long....and I do mean ALL.DAY. LONG.
We coated red bliss potatoes in oil and seasoned with salt then roasted them at 400°f for about 45 minutes in the XL BGE.  Then we scooped out the pulp and mixed it with cheese and rub.  This pic is from a batch we did at home when we were testing.

Then we stuffed some green chile smoked pork into the potato, a dab of sweet BBQ sauce, and piped the potato mixture back on top of that.  We roast that on the Egg until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes at 350°f.  We topped with with chipotle sour cream (1 cup sour cream, 1 seeded chipotle diced, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and Albukirky's green chile rub) and more sweet BBQ sauce.  These were pretty awesome.  

The Jordan's Drunk Pickle is based on a dish Rhonda had at Frozen Fest up in Wisconsin during February.  It is essentially a Cubano (Cuban sandwich) stuffed inside a pickle.

The idea seemed a little out there to me and I wasn't sure how it would be received but we couldn't make these things fast enough for the crowd.  We had food going out all day long and as soon as we would plate these, they would be gone.

Our little corner of the Eggfest.  We had an XL and two larges to use.  I outfitted the two larges with Adjustable Rigs to double our capacity.

Chad from Kick Ash Basket stopped by before the crowds rushed in.

Marcia Simmons and crew were our neighbors to the right.  Marcia is a fabulous Egger and does training classes and catering.  She knows her stuff.

Scott and Carson working on making the pickles.  

Amanda and Cade coring pickles.  We went through 9 or 10 gallons of pickles for this.

Scott, Carson, and Laurie hammering away in our "kitchen".  Everyone on our team kicked butt for this contest.  No one slacked off.

Our neighbors to our left were also well known Eggers - Kristi (Necessary Indulgences) and Pat (FlaPoolman).  They made some mouth watering Scotch eggs and some buffalo chicken wontons that were crazy good.

The crowds started off modestly for the first 45 minutes or so but that wouldn't last.

Laurie piping the cheesy mashed potato mixture into the shells.

Carson doing a little quality control.

Rhonda and Cade slicing the sage and cheddar beer bread.  

After the first hours, the lines pretty much never stopped.

Laurie dressing the potatoes for serving.

Our back area was where we did all of the prep the shade!

Rhonda checking on the bread.

Yours truly putting more potatoes on one of the large BGE.  The adjustable rigs helped us double our capacity and keep putting food out about every 10-15 minutes by staggering when we put food on the grill.

Our crowded little corner.

I think there was something like 50 teams but I don't have an official count.  But there were lots of teams putting out good food for the crowds.

The weather actually stayed nice all day after several lines of storms the previous night.

Janet and Michael from Flame Boss were on the scene, giving out great food and demonstrating how their Flame Boss maintains a superior fire with a steady air flow.

Big Green Craig
Our friend, Big Green Craig, gave a class on wok grilling (what I call "stir firing") to a good crowd.

No matter where you looked, someone was cooking on a Big Green Egg.

The different teams produced a splendid variety of recipes.  That's one thing that I like better about Eggfests - everyone isn't cooking the same chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.  
More lines....did I mention the lines?

The Queen of Green team put out some great Cuban sandwiches.

Cade, Rhonda, and Carson getting more Jordan's Drunk Pickles reading for the waiting crowds.  People kept coming up asking if we were the "pickle people".

Clayton and Marcia served a wide range of recipes, I lost count of how many they did.  

Rhonda and Carson plating more potatoes for our fans.

Cade serving up more taters.  

Marcia starting another dessert.  That spiced rum she is pouring may or may not have been also used for shots for the cooks in our corner.  

More lines.  Always more lines.
The afternoon was pretty crowded.

At the end of the day we had a few celebratory shots.  Bro's forever! ;)

Whew!  We were so glad when it was time to shut down the Eggs and stop serving.  At best count, we gave out approximately 1,000 samples. We planned for 300, doubled that and then had to run to the store for more.
I think my favorite part was the "after party" that started with just 4 of us and a pair of Mini-Maxes. Before you knew it, we had a big group of everyone digging in the coolers and cooking anything they had left over.  

What a great weekend spent with friends and family!  Even if you've never seen a Big Green Egg, if you have an Eggfest in your area, you should check it out for some great food and fun.

Coming up next I'll post about our weekend at Memphis in May and our KCBS BBQ contest in Sevierville.