Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019 Smokin With Smithfield National Barbecue Championship

[FTC Standard Disclaimer]  My travel expenses for this event were paid for by a representative of Smithfield.

In boxing, you will hear the term "Unified Champion."  That is because there are different sanctioning bodies - WBO, WBC, IBF, etc.  Each organization might have its own champion.  When things align, and the same person wins championships from the WBO, WBC, or IBF, that is referred to as a Unified Champion.

Over the past year, Smithfield created a unified championship across the BBQ sanctioning bodies when they established the Smokin' With Smithfield National Barbecue Championship, which was held in New Orleans last weekend.  I was lucky enough to be invited to tag along as part of the media team.  Here are scenes from this inaugural championship.

Bling from the 2019 Smokin' with Smithfield National Barbecue Championship
The event was held in New Orleans, so naturally, they had a Mardi Gras theme going on.

This unified championship started long before last weekend.
  • Two years ago, it began as an idea - a points chase across BBQ sanctioning bodies culminating in the top group going head to head in a "back-to-back-to-back" triple-contest.  
  • Last year, teams signed up at Smokin' With Smithfield and BBQData began tracking the points of the 370 registered teams.
  • After a full year of competitions, the top 24 teams were invited to the Smokin' With Smithfield National Barbecue Championship.
I loved that this contest didn't get into silly stuff that televised food competitions do, like mystery proteins and special challenges.  They kept it to traditional BBQ contest formats - who can cook the best chicken, pork ribs, pork, and brisket.

Another refreshing spin they did to level the playing field was that everyone was cooking with the same set of meats: 
  • Ribs and pork from Smithfield
  • Chicken and brisket from The Butcher Shoppe in Pensacola.
The organizers did their best to have evenly sized meats divided up into Yeti 65 coolers.  Then teams are drawn by a bingo-style ping-pong ball dispenser to determine who gets which cooler.  You can't get fairer than that.

All teams cooked the same meats - courtesy of Smithfield and The Butcher Shoppe.
It's a good thing these are heavy or I might have grabbed one and run off with it :)  The pork was provided by Smithfield and the brisket and chicken by The Butcher Shoppe.

Because of travel arrangements and work, a lot of the media team did not make it in until after Day 1 was in the books.  The 12 teams advancing on to the second round were:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Pimento Cheese Burger And BBQ Baked Beans

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  I received no compensation for this post.  Obviously, I benefit from the sale of my second book that is linked.

This past week, I got to spend time with my parents and siblings in my hometown. I have been teaching grilling classes, judging at BBQ contests, and other grilling events every weekend.  As fun as those are, the constant go, go, going on weekends can start to feel like a grind.  This week was a chance to recharge and stoke that inner fire.  

My parents were inbound from an all-day drive from the mountains, so my sister and I thought we would make them dinner.  Growing up, I always loved it when we had burgers on our grill that my dad had made from an abandoned beer keg.  My mom would often make her sweet and tangy BBQ baked beans.  So, Rhonda and I decided on burgers and BBQ beans, specifically, Pimento Cheese Burgers.

Pimento cheese burger and BBQ beans cooked on a Big Green Egg kamado grill
A backyard classic - burgers, bbq beans, and chips.

For the beans, we have Alexis' #1 Barbecue Beans recipe in The Offset Smoker Cookbook.  That is a spectacular recipe, and it won Alexis her first First Place at competitions.  But my mom varied her bean recipe all the time, and they were all good.  So Rhonda and I decided to wing it and just made this one from what we had on hand.

Baked BBQ Beans on the kamado grill featuring Bush's Beans
We happened to have some "seasoning bacon" from Rhonda's home-cured, home-smoked bacon.  That's the ends that you cut off to square the edges of the slab of bacon. Typically, we would use chopped smoked pork or brisket.
Tonight's BBQ Baked Beans

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Event: Scenic City Eggfest 2019

I have been on the run at BBQ contests and grilling festivals every weekend for weeks on end.  I've been traveling so much that I haven't been able to get my wrap-ups posted, so I'm playing catch up.

I travel around the country, going to various Eggfests, cooking, teaching classes, and judging.  But my home Eggfest is the Scenic City Eggfest.  It is my Eggfest for more reasons than just being close.
  • Elder's Ace Hardware, East Tennessee's leading BBQ/grill dealer, is the host.
  • I get the chance to hang out with the best Eggers in East Tennessee.
  • Food City, the grocery chain where I shop day-to-day, is the food sponsor. '
  • The proceeds benefit the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.  

Here are some photographs of the fun, food, and friendships that we shared at the 2019 Scenic City Eggfest.

2019 Scenic City Eggfest is held at The Commons near Chattanooga
The Scenic City Eggfest is held at The Commons, which is a gorgeous open-air public event center.  It is relatively new, has clean facilities, and has room for us to grow.

2019 Scenic City Eggfest
The covered event area is ideal because this is a rain or shine event. 

The Pizza Porta is a hot accessory for kamados like Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe.
Cortlandt Minnich was there, rocking the Pizza Porta.  Their team is always a popular booth because A) everyone loves pizza, and B) The Pizza Porta is an eye-catching accessory.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Strip Steak with Zucchini and Onion - Japanese Steakhouse Style

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  This post is sponsored by the Certified Angus Beef® Brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC.  All opinions are my own.

I have always been fascinated with the Japanese-style steakhouses, also known as hibachi or teppanyaki restaurants.  I enjoy the live-cooking entertainment as much as the food.  I am in awe of the chef's ability to cook eight variations of their steak-shrimp-scallop-chicken combinations at once and nail the timing.  On top of that, you have to add the vaudeville schtick of jokes, flinging shrimp tails, building onion volcanos, and the cling-clang-bing-bang of the swirling utensils.  

Those chefs are true multi-taskers, and I lack their ability to keep track of so much.  At our house, a kitchen timer goes off, Alexis asks what it was for, and I'm likely to reply, "I had a timer set?" 

This past weekend, Food City had some gorgeous Certified Angus Beef® Brand, USDA Prime grade NY Strip Steaks and I couldn't resist them. Usually, I like a simple grilled steak.  But I wanted something different, so I channeled my inner teppanyaki chef and came up with this Strip Steak with Sweet Soy Butter, Zucchini and Onions, and Jasmine rice.  

I departed from my usual teppanyaki steak dinner process (Japanese Steakhouse Appetizers, Teppanyaki Steak and Scallops) a few ways:

  • I cooked the steak whole, instead of cutting it up during the cook and finishing it by cooking the individual pieces.
  • I skipped the usual ginger dipping sauce for a Sweet Soy-Garlic-Ginger butter.

Teppanyaki Seasoning

Monday, October 21, 2019

Fire Roasted Vegetable Lasagna on the Big Green Egg

[Standard FTC Disclosure]  I received no compensation for this post.

A ceramic kamado grill (Big Green Egg, Primo, Kamado Joe, Grilla Kong, etc.) is similar to a wood-fired oven, and that is one of my favorite ways to use it.  The ceramic dome lid serves both as a heat modulator and reflector, which results in even cooking.  Natural hardwood lump charcoal burns quite cleanly and gives the food a pleasantly mild, fire-roasted flavor.  It is PERFECT for lasagna; I fire-roasted my first lasagna years ago, and I haven't cooked one in the oven since.

This Fire Roasted Vegetable Lasagna is fan-freaking-tastic.   We recently made this veggie lasagna for a pot-luck lunch at our office.  We have a few vegetarians at our office, so I came up with the recipe for them.  

Vegetarian lasagna on the big green egg kamado grill aka veggie lasagna

Turns out, this isn't a "vegetarian lasagna," this is a luscious, creamy, and delicious lasagna that just happens to be vegetarian.  

Vegetable lasagna fire roasted on a Big Green Egg kamado grill.
If you don't have a ceramic kamado grill (you should!), you can make this on most grills or even your oven.  

Fire Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Published 10/21/2019
This is a creamy, cheesy, and delicious lasagna that just happens to be vegetarian.  


  • 1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked per package directions
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese, shredded

Monday, October 14, 2019

Prime Ribeye Steak with Roasted Garlic Chive Butter and Skillet Potatoes

[FTC Standard Disclosure]  Although I did not participate in the Sunday Supper Certified Angus Beef® Brand program this year, I did receive two trips and a banner from them in 2019.  

I had a kickin' toothache last week so when I could finally eat normally again this past weekend, I went straight for a ribeye steak. Precisely, a Ribeye Steak with Roasted Garlic Chive Butter and Skillet Potatoes as a side dish. This is a free cook, meaning I wasn't writing a recipe, I was just whipping up something for dinner.

Ribeye Steak with Roasted Garlic Chive Butter featuring Certified Angus Beef® Brand from Food City.

Alexis and I were at Food City and found this pair of USDA Prime, Certified Angus Beef® Brand ribeye steaks.  They were just $1 more a pound that the C.A.B. USDA Choice, so the Prime was a natural choice for me.

On the left, a competition style trimmed ribeye and on the right, an untrimmed ribeye steak.
The one on the left is trimmed competition style and tied while the one on the right is "as is" from the package. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Leftovers Supreme: Baked Penne and Sausage

[Standard FTC Disclosure]  I received no compensation for this post.

Baked spaghetti and variations thereof are a fun and easy way to use up leftovers.

Baked penne and sausage on a big green egg kamado grill

Tuesday we cooked a few pans of fire-roasted lasagna on the Big Green Egg for the staff at our Knoxville office.  I'll have a full recipe post coming up for the veggie lasagna that we made because it was killer.  

After making the lasagna, we had extra Italian sausage meat sauce and cheese leftover.  Naturally, I thought of making a "baked spaghetti" dish with the leftovers.

Baked penne and sausage baked on a big green egg kamado grill

We had some dry penne in the pantry so I boiled that and mixed it with the meat sauce and a bunch of cheese, probably 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack.  I topped that off with more cheese and some panko bread crumbs.