Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grilled Cajun Pork Tenderloins

Here's a few reasons why I like grilling pork tenderloins.

  • They don't require much trimming other than the silverskin.
  • They are easy to cook whole.  Regardless of what I do to them in terms of rubs, marinades, injections, or brines, I'm always going to cook them around 350-400°f until they reach an internal temperature of 140°f which takes about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • They are a blank canvas for whatever flavor profile you want to use. From BBQ to Thai, almost anything goes.
  • They are relatively inexpensive.
  • They are easy to store and you can get a lot of them on a grill because of their size.
  • It's easy to scale recipes for pork tenderloin up or down.
  • They are lean but still have lots of flavor.

Here's a recipe for pork tenderloin that I recently did for Char-Broil - Grilled Cajun Pork Tenderloins with Spicy Slaw.

Using pork tenderloin for sliders makes about 4 sliders per tenderloin.  So if you're going to tailgate, it's easy to know how many tenderloins you will need.  Season or marinade them at home and take them to the stadium in gallon zip top bags.  Thirty minutes after the grill is going you will be ready to eat!  

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I receive compensation from Char-Broil for providing recipes and other content for their online presence.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BBQ Competition: Sevierville Bloomin' BBQ and Bluegrass 2016

Scenes from our first contest of the year.  It was actually 2 months ago, I just never got around to posting these.  I'm posting these in a typical contest week timeline for us so you can get an idea of what is involved.

Sunday the Weekend Before Contest
First order of business is cleaning up the trailer and getting it ready with everything except the grills and food which will be loaded later in the week.  The trailer is a 7' x 16' Freedom dual axle concession trailer with food safe walls, floors, and ceiling.  

My Freedom Concession trailer is the best for BBQ contests and vending.
Trevor mopping the floor. The interior looks so small here, it's hard to believe 4 of us fit on this with everything else once it is fully loaded.

Freedom concession trailers are top of the line.
Loaded back up until we finish midweek.  This usually takes 4 to 5 hours.

Tuesday Night - Shopping Night
We get our supplies from just a few places.  I get our wagyu brisket and pork butts from Willy's Butcher Shop.  Our ribs, coal, and dry goods come from Butler and Bailey Market, an independent local grocery store here in Knoxville. We usually make one last run to Kroger's to get drinks, any other supplies, and chicken.

Best butcher in Knoxville area
Willy's is in the Homberg Shopping District of Knoxville and is the premier butcher in the area.  He's got top end meats like wagyu beef and has a large aging room for producing succulent dry aged steaks.

We store the big meats in my Yeti 75, sandwiched in ice, and that keeps them fine until Friday.  I have a love/hate relationship with this cooler.  It's big, bulky, heavy, stupidly expensive and way over-engineered for 90% of my needs.  But for that 10% of the time, there's no better cooler.
Wednesday- Thursday Night
This is an important time because anything you can get done in the way of sauces, rubs, etc means less you have to do onsite.  You can trim the meats, you just can't season them at all until meat inspection Friday morning at the event.

Sometime between Wednesday and Friday morning, my sister, Rhonda, gets into town from Florida.  Ramsay LOVES his "Aunt" Rhonda, can you tell?  Photo Credit: Rhonda H.

Now we load the kamados and perishable foods into the trailer. Notice that the kamados are in our "kamado krates" to keep them secure. They are sitting on 2 layers of foam padding to absorb any shock from bumps en route.  This usually takes a couple of hours.  Once we shut it Wednesday night, we won't open it again until at the contest. 

Inside of each kamado, we add more padding.  A pad under the ceramic fire bowl and then one between the fire bowl and fire ring.  There are only 3 of the rings because the Vision has an integrated fire bowl and fire ring.

Thursday night or Friday morning we drop the trailer off at the site. It pays to get there early to make it easy to get your rig into place. Once everyone else gets there, navigating 40 feet of vehicle through tight spaces with a lot of foot traffic is not any fun.  We go ahead and hook up our water and electrical connections.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How To Pull or Chop Pork

This isn't how to smoke pulled pork, I've already done that before.  

No, this is all about different methods and tools for breaking down that big hunk of smoked pork shoulder down to the delicious bits and pieces that end up your sandwich.

First, some general pointers.

  • Smoked pork is best after it has rested for an hour or more.  Known as F.T.C. (foil-towel-cooler), just put your foil wrapped butt into a warm cooler, cover with a towel, and leave it closed until ready to pull.  We usually stick ours into one of our Cambos.  When we have a lot, more than 8 butts, we'll stick them in my Yeti 75 (holds 12) or an Igloo 150 quart.  The trick is to pick something the right size.  For whatever you use, to have as much meat in the cooler/cambro as possible with only a little empty space so it will stay warmer, longer.  
  • For transporting pork to a different site for serving.  My first preference is to haul it there whole and pull it on site.  Smoked pork holds better whole and the spectacle of breaking it up in front of your guests adds impact.
  • Pulling pork after the butt is cold.  Don't.  If for some reason you can't pull it while still warm, you will need to slowly reheat it.  With it still wrapped in foil, put it in a 200°f cooker or oven for an hour or so to get the chill off first.  
  • Work quickly.  The meat will start drying out as soon as you break the butt open until you have it pulled, stored, and covered.  
  • Taste and season the pork while pulling.  Sample pieces from all over - the horn, money muscle, and roast muscles - to get a good idea of where the flavor is at before you start adding. We usually use a fine ground, sweet and spicy rub for this.  We'll also drizzle a small amount of Carolina vinegar sauce when chopping pork; not enough to douse it, just enough to add a little flavor.  
  • Save the juices from the foil wrapping and add some of it back into the final product for extra flavor and moisture.
  • Pulled versus chopped.  This is just a personal preference.  Pulled pork is just that - the meat pulled apart, leaving bigger pieces and strands.  Chopped is further processed into small pieces for a different texture.  You will get a higher percentage yield from chopped pork than pulled pork because you have less waste or scrap.  

Two Forks

This is the original way we first started pulling pork and we still do this depending on what is available.  Break the pork into large chunks and then using two large serving forks, pull the chunks into "threads".  Stick the forks into the middle of a chunk, pressing down on a cutting board, and pull the forks outwards.  

This is the most meticulous of all of the processes.  Look for any gelatinous pieces of fat and discard them.  If you find any pieces of bark (dark outer crust) that overcooked and got hard, discard them as well.  But that is where all of your flavor is so try not to over cook :)

By Hand

The pork should still be very hot so you'll want some heat resistant food gloves.  Silicone gloves are good for this and come in two styles - straight silicone and silicone with a fabric lining.  I use the straight silicone gloves because they are easier to keep dry but that's just a personal preference.

I picked up this technique from World Champion Pitmaster, Chris Lilly.  He just pops out the bone and then smashes the pork butts down like in this video from the NY Big Apple BBQ Block Party.  It works when you're in a hurry and only requires a set of heat resistant food gloves.  Obviously if you are rushing then you are not going to get the quality control of picking through it.  Usually I'll do this part, push it to the side for a teammate or two to pick through it, and I start on the next one.

There are a TON of these orange style gloves available and the prices vary pretty widely ($9 to $25) so comparison shop.  I haven't come across any that are poor quality yet.  I use them a lot for handling ribs, butts, and briskets as well as pulling the pork.

Bear Paws

Bear Paws are one of the original pork pulling tools.  They are cheap, easy to keep santized, and a slew of people swear by them. You use them just like you would forks, but hold your hands like this.

They are effective and get the job done.  They've just never been my favorite because they feel a little awkward to me.  These are very popular and there's nothing wrong with them, that is just a personal preference.

Meat Rakes

Meat Rakes are similar in concept to the Bear Paws but execute that product in a slightly different way.  They have metal tines for tearing the meat apart instead of plastic tips that can dull.  They are also dishwasher safe.  They cost twice as much as Bear Paws but I prefer them over Bear Paws because
  1. The tines are closer together than Bear Paws so they shred the meat smaller than the Bear Paws with each pass, making them work just a little quicker, and 
  2. My wrists feel like they are in a more neutral position when I use these vs the position I use with Bear Paws.

Again, this is just my choice.  Pick which is better for you.


At some BBQ joints you can find a worker with a pair of cleavers chopping away at pork in a blur with alternating strokes like he/she is beating a drum.  It amazes me that they have all of their fingers but these folks have been doing this every day for years.

The way I use it is in conjunction with some of the other tools I have mentioned.  I pull the pork first.  If I am wanting chopped pork, I rapidly chop back and forth across the pulled pork in two directions.  
Prices vary, I've seen them as cheap as $15 and almost no limit on the upper end, but you can get a decent one for $50.  Look for one with a thick blade that extends all the way through the handle (full tang).

Drill Attachment

I always thought this was overkill until we started cooking at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival where I cooked with our Memphis In May team.  We go through hundreds of pork butts each day so speed is of the essence.  One of our teammates makes a version of these.  This one is a RO-man pork puller that we bought online.

Best practice is to use this with a brand new drill that is only used for this to avoid cross contamination from a dirty drill that splits time in the work shop.
It works by pulling the bone out of each of 2 to 3 pork butts and putting them in a large stock pot. Then just insert the pork puller, add any additional seasoning, and whirl away.  It breaks down the butts into pulled pork very quickly.  Want chopped pork instead?  Just use it for another minute longer.

We typically only use this for large scale service, like the Kentucky festival, Christmas parade, or charity events.

So there are some options for pulling or chopping pork.  As I mentioned several times, it's all about preference and what works for you.  You don't need anything more than a couple of forks.

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post and paid full price for all of the tools that I mentioned.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Event Announcement: 2016 Pensacola Eggfest dates announced

I've written several times about the fun, food, and good times that go on at "Eggfests".  Eggfests are BBQ festivals where teams of Big Green Egg users 
  • get together, 
  • cook lots of food, 
  • give out samples (unlike BBQ contests), 
  • indulge in a beverage or 3
  • enjoy entertainment, and 
  • typically raise money for a charity.  
Usually I'm writing about them after the fact and showing you what you missed.  Well here is a heads up for the 2016 Pensacola Eggfest - one of the premier Eggfests in the Southeast.  It has the best Eggfest venue as it is held in the Blue Wahoo's Stadium and over looks the bay.

Pensacola Eggfest
benefiting Chain Reaction
Sunday, November 13, 2016
11am - 2pm

This truly is a destination Eggfest.  With the beautiful white sand beaches, hot fishing year round, and plenty to do, you should make it an extra long weekend and enjoy what Pensacola has to offer. The weather in your area will probably miserable by mid-November so plan a trip down to the Gulf coast!  
But you should go ahead and plan now - they sold out last year!  Your $25 "taster" ticket ($35 at the gate if any tickets left) will get you in the door and access to samples from some amazing cooks.  Order your tickets here

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloins with Bacon Gravy

One of the posts that Char-Broil asked me to develop was something "bacon inspired".  

When brainstorming that one, I thought about how many recipes you see that are "bacon wrapped whatever".  It always sounds good but the execution is usually lacking and the bacon comes out half cooked.  

That made me think of a horrible entree that I was served at a restaurant a few months ago.  It was "bacon wrapped pork tenderloin medallions, smoked and grilled".  I had this dish at the same restaurant once before and it was pretty good.  The second time though it came out like this [restaurant name withheld because they generally have made decent food].

That's funny....I don't recall ordering "oh hell no". 

Before the server could put the plate down on the table, I was hit with a strong smell of foul smoke.  The pork smelled like someone trying to light a wet bag of charcoal briquettes.  I'm pretty sure that they had a grease fire while "smoking" them.  The bacon was rubbery, barely even cooked.  

So I decided to do a spin on that dish.  I used Chef Adam Perry Lang's high/slow technique that he does for bacon wrapped beef filet and adapted that for pork.  That made the bacon perfectly cooked.  To complete the dish, I served it with bacon gravy because....bacon.  

No soggy bacon or dirty smoke here.

Hop over to Char-Broil to see the full recipe and get other great tips and grilling recipes.  

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] I partner with Char-Broil and am compensated to produce content for their online presence.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sonoran Beef Tri-Tip Sliders

This is one of the recipes that we made at our grilling demo earlier this summer at The Great Backyard Place, Knoxville's Saber and Grill Dome dealer.  It's a Sonoran Beef Tri-Tip Slider and we served it with my favorite way to do corn - elote aka Mexican street corn.

How to cook beef tritip on a gas grill
There's no avocado pictured because I'm forgetful.  It was sliced and sitting off to the side the whole time.  

Sonoran Beef Tri-Tip Sliders

Published 07/21/2016
We season beef tri-tips with our basic beef rub and layer it with our fajita seasoning, then reverse sear it on the grill. Sliced thin and served on toasted slider rolls with avocado, roasted pepper mayo, and a tomato based hot sauce.


  • 1 ea Beef tri-tip 2-2.5 lbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Beef or steak seasoning 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Fajita seasoning 
  • 8 ea Slider rolls 
  • 1 ea Avocado peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 tablespoon Roasted red pepper 
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cumin 
  • 1/4 cup Tomato based hot sauce


  1. Finely mince the roasted red pepper and whisk into the mayonnaise with the cumin. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  2. Season the tri-tip all over with the beef rub and then the fajita rub. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours before serving.
  3. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat to low heat - 250-275°f. Unwrap the trip tip and slow roast the tri-tip until it is an internal temperature of 127°f - about 1 hour. For the Saber IR Grill, this will be turning on the far left burner on high and letting preheat for 20 minutes. Place the tri-tip on the upper level on the far right side and cook until done.
  4. When the tri-tip reaches an internal temperature of 127°f, remove it from the grill and allow to rest until the internal temperature stops rising (probably around 133-135°f or about 7-10 minutes).
  5. Crank the grill tempature to very hot. With the Saber IR Grill, your far left burner is already there. Place the tri-tip over very hot heat and sear for about 1 minute per side. Remove from grill.
  6. Toast the slide buns on the grill. Slice the tri-tip thinly against the grain. For each slider, top the bun bottom with a few slices of the beef and avocado. Drizzle with the hot sauce and slather the top bun with the roasted pepper mayo.

Yield: 8 sliders

I used our recipe for Beef Rub and Fajita Seasoning but you can use your own favorite recipes or buy commercially available seasonings if that floats your boat.  If you want a more basic beef rub than my recipe, you can always just mix 3 parts kosher salt, 2 parts black pepper and 1 part granulated garlic. For the hot sauce, I used Albukirky's Anchonero Hot BBQ Sauce.

Just getting set up in the morning, you can already see dark skies to the West.  We have a 100% record at The Great Backyard Place.  Three demos and three rain outs.

The Saber gas grill is the best gas grill that I have ever used.
A better view of the Saber 500 (Cast) that I used.  As I wrote in detail in my initial review, this is the best gas grill that I have ever used.  It's well built and easy to assemble.  I love the divided fire box that let's you truly cook at 3 different temperatures at the same time.  The unique grate system yields pure infrared heat that produces excellent food.  Sure, I'm typically a charcoal guy but I really enjoy cooking on this grill.

How to tell where to slice a beef tri-tip roast.
Tri-Tip typically have a boomerang shape and the grain of the meat runs 2-3 different ways.  You need to be aware of this so when you a slicing the roast, you can cut against the grain (90 degrees across it).  If you cut with the grain, you will have long muscle fibers that will be make the meat tough to chew.  I usually slice it into two pieces right where the red line is and then slice against the grain from there.

Meat boomerang!  Seasoned and ready to go onto the grill.

Use a remote probe thermometer to monitor the temperature of the tri-tip while slow roasting so you get it perfectly done.
Thermoworks ThermaQ is a professional grade commercial style remote probe thermometer.
Notice the maximum or peak temperature of 135°f.  First, if I was serving this just as slices, I'd pull the meat around 125°f but for sandwiches I take it a nudge further like this.  Second, it is important for the internal temperature to start falling before doing the sear.  That gets the energy going in the opposite direction so the 2-3 minute sear won't cook the inside any more, it will just put color and flavor on the outside.

I love tri-tip.  It's almost as tender as a beef tenderloin but it has more beef flavor.

Slicing the tri-tip at the demo.

Annnnnnnd then the rains came.  We were able to feed folks and talk about the grills for about 2 hours before it started raining so it wasn't a complete rain out.

beef tri-tip recipe for the grill
We weren't sure whether we were going to do this recipe on the Saber grill or the Grill Dome kamado grill until that morning.  The recipe works excellent on either grill.  If I was doing this on a kamado grill I'd preheat it to 250°f with a heat diffuser (plate setter, stone/spider) and slow roast it for the same time.  Then pull the heat diffuser out, bring up the temp, and sear the roast off just like we did on the Saber.

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  I received my Saber 500 for free for review but receive no other compensation from Saber.  To find out more about this premium gas grill, check out their website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Grilled Beef Tri-Tip with Charred Green Onion Bearnaise

Beef tri-tip is an outstanding cut of beef because it is so tender, almost like a tenderloin, but it has more of the beef flavor.  This is one that I grilled this Summer to slice and use in wraps. 

Great beef tri-tip recipe

The sauce is a variation of the classic Bearnaise sauce, usually I do the ’97 Joy of Cooking version.  Instead of the traditional tarragon, I used charred green onions, smashed garlic, and smoked black pepper to flavor the sauce.  I think this bolder flavor goes great with grilled beef.

If you don’t feel like putting together a double boiler or whisking egg yolks 6 to 8 minutes, I get it.  You could always just doctor some good mayonnaise with chopped grilled green onions, minced garlic, and smoked pepper then then it out with a little chicken stock for something that’s close. 

Using a fine finishing salt after the beef is sliced draws out the best flavor from the beef.  This time I used a blend of Himalayan pink salt and black pepper from a specialty store.  My Worcestershire sauce and shallot salt also goes very well with beef.

Grilled Beef Tri-Tip with Charred Green Onion Bearnaise

  • 1 whole beef tri-tip
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 green onions
  • Finishing salt

For the Bearnaise Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed whole
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1.5 tablespoons cold water
  • ½ cup warm clarified butter
  • Salt to taste

  1. Set up your grill for a two zone fire (one area directly above the coals and another area that is to the side of the coals.  Preheat it to 450-500°f. 
  2. Season the tri-tip all over with the black pepper, kosher salt, and granulated garlic.
  3. Sear the tri-tip directly over the hot coals for 3 to 4 minutes per side.  If you want nice cross hatch marks, rotate the roast a quarter turn halfway through (1.5 to 2 minutes) on each side.  Meanwhile grill the green onion until charred – about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Move the roast to the indirect heat side and let roast until the tri-tip hits an internal temperature of 125°f – about 45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, place a small skillet on a side burner or stove top.  Add the wine, white wine vinegar, the two white ends of the green onion, the smashed garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon of black ground pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by 2/3rds (about 2 tablespoon remaining).  Remove from heat.
  6. Place a double broiler with 1” of water on a grill side burner or stove top and bring to a simmer.  I prefer to use a medium stock pot and a medium stainless steel mixing bowl stuck down into the pot as shown.  This is easier to whisk than a double boiler.
  7. In the mixing bowl/double boiler top OFF OF HEAT, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and water until they are thickened and frothy – about two minutes.  Don’t just stir, really whisk it as fast as you can.  Now put the bowl/double boiler top BACK ON HEAT onto the double boiler and continue whisking until the mixture becomes sauce like in texture – about 4 minutes.   Remove from heat.
  8. While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in the warm clarified butter until it all has been blended in.  Then blend in 2 tablespoons of the chopped green onion tops and black pepper.  Taste and add salt as needed.
  9. Keep the sauce warm until ready to use.  A warm thermos or insulated drink cup works well for this.
  10. When the roast hits your internal temp (125f for medium rare, 135f for medium), which should take from 45 minutes to close to 1 hour, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
  11. Slice thinly, lightly sprinkle with finishing salt of your choice.
  12. You can serve as slices with some of the sauce or add lettuce, tomato, red onion, with a mission style tortilla to make wraps like we did.  

My weapon of choice this night was my Char-Broil Kettleman.  I've used it for a year and a half now and it is my favorite non-kamado charcoal grill.  It’s lightweight but has plenty of space, making it an ideal tailgate grill.  It’s also priced so it won’t break the bank.  I got mine for free as part of my sponsorship & compensation package but I would spend my own money on this in a heartbeat.

Char-Broil Half Time Chimney Starter
I fired up the grill with Char-Broil's new Center Cut Lump Charcoal.  It’s easy to light and gets to temp fast.  I bought a box at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores.  Yeah I said “box”.  It’s packaged that way so that rough handling in shipping and stocking doesn’t break it into a million little pieces.  You can findout more about it at Char-Broil's website. 

This tri-tip was HUGE weighing in at 4 pounds.  You shouldn't have to clean it up too much, just trim off any exterior pieces of fat.
Don't season it until just before grilling.  The salt will draw out moisture from the meat.  
I set my grill up for a two zone fire.  In a kamado grill I normally do a reverse sear because it's easier to get temps up than down.  In a kettle grill I usually do sear THEN roast because the grill temperatures are easier to drop than raise them.  

How to grill a perfect beef tri-tip
A quick sear directly over the coals - about 3-4 minutes per side with a quarter turn half way through for those pretty grill marks.

How to cook beef tri-tip
Since the ends are thinner than the middle, I point them away from the coals for even cooking during the roast portion.  Of course you want your grill lid closed during the roast.

A quick visual for you on the reduced wine and vinegar.  It started out as 6 tablespoons and ended up like this.  That is concentrated flavor.

Here's how to make a double boiler for the sauce.  There is about 1 inch of water in the bottom pot and you keep the water just simmering, not boiling.  It shouldn't touch the top bowl.

Easy bearnaise sauce recipe
When finished your sauce should coat the back of a spoon like this.

using my Char-Broil Kettleman grill
Towards the end of the roast, if your grill temp falls below 250f, just shift the roast back closer or even on top of the coals.

Ready to eat!

Beef Tri-Tip will rise in internal temperature 5 to 7 degrees after you take it off of the grill.
The TRU Infrared grill grates on the Kettleman create beautiful grill marks, don't you think?

Sliced thin and drizzled with the charred green onion bearnaise for a wrap.

Here’s a tri-tip uhhhh tip:  Only slice what you need when it’s hot and leave the rest of the roast whole.  It’s easier to slice it thinly while the tri-tip roast is cold and firm.  Then use a razor sharp slicing knife or slicer and shave the meat as thin as you can.  This stuff makes amazing roast beef sandwiches or cheese steak sandwiches. 

[FTC Standard Disclaimer] Char-Broil is one of my sponsors and I receive compensation for this post.