Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Reverse Seared Tomahawk Steaks on the Grill

At what point does a "steak" become a "roast"?

That's just a rhetorical question for fun, not a discussion of semantics.  But if you put these two ribeye steaks together, they would be a two-bone, 4.5 pound prime rib roast.  

How to grill super thick steaks

When I cook normal sized ribeye steaks, ones a little bigger than an inch thick, I prefer to grill them over direct heat about 4 1/2 minutes per side.  But when I have thicker steaks, in excess of 1.5 inches thick, I take a different approach in terms of seasoning, cooking, and serving.
  • Seasoning the Steak - I go bigger for a bolder flavor.  With a bigger steak, you have more unseasoned internal meat than seasoned surface meat, kind of like with a roast. So I use coarse rubs to get bigger bursts of flavor.  For my salt, I'll go with David's Kosher salt because it seems to have bigger flakes of salt than the Morton's Kosher that I use day in/day out.  For black pepper, I like a 16 mesh sized Malabar or Tellicherry black pepper (those are types, not brands).  
  • Cooking the Steak- Direct heat is fine for steaks in the 1" neighborhood. But "big ol' honkin' steaks" do best with combination cooking techniques, like reverse sear, sous vide, or sear/roast.  This goes for ribeyes, NY strip steaks, or beef filet.  The slower roast or sous vide cooking gradually brings the entire mass of beef to the appropriate temp while the sear puts that flavorful crust on the outside.
  • Serving the Steak - Steaks this thick are meant for sharing.  Sure, competitive eaters and freaks of nature can eat a 72 ounce steak(Saw this place on TV.  Our friend, Larry went there...he did not attempt the challenge.  Don't blame him.).  But for most of us, 8 ounces of steak is plenty.  With massive steaks, treat them as a roast, slice, and share. 
More semantics - difference between a "cowboy ribeye" and a "tomahawk steak"? I think of a cowboy ribeye as a bone in ribeye steak, with the eye, lip, and cap intact. The bone is usually about as short as the steak.  The tomahawk is also a bone in ribeye but it has a longer portion of the bone but to really resemble a tomahawk, it should just have the eye portion of the ribeye (cap and lip removed).  So these have the full bone handle but also have the cap and lip still attached....maybe they are more of a meat axe than a tomahawk steak?  Ha!  

Enough talking about beef, let's eat it.  Here is how I prepared these two tomahawk ribeyes.  

Bone in ribeye recipe, how to cook bone in ribeye, thick steak tips.
I used my NMT Beef Rub recipe, shown before grinding here. It's black peppercorns, green peppercorns, coarse smoked salt, dried shallots, dried garlic, and dried bell peppers. 

Tips, tricks, and how to for cooking large thick steaks perfectly
I rubbed the steaks with peanut oil and then the coarse ground beef rub. Notice the rack. I try to avoid putting meat on a flat surface after I have rubbed it because a good portion of the rub will stick to the flat surface when you lift the steaks.

I was using a ceramic kamado grill for this cook.  Here are a few set ups you can use for indirect heat on those grills. They all work effectively, it's just a matter of using what you have on hand.

Indirect cooking grilling on kamado grills like Big Green Egg, Primo Grills, Kamado Joe and Vision
Clockwise from upper left. Cast iron plate setter and standard Big Green Egg grate. Pizza stone, Raiser rig, and a Craycort cast iron grate (section removed for visibility only). Pizza stone, Grill Dome indirect rig, and Grill Dome grate.  Pizza stone, spider rig, and standard Big Green Egg grate.

Grill Dome is a brand of ceramic kamado grills.  Others include Big Green Egg, Primo Grills, Kamado Joe and Vision Grills. Thermoworks ChefAlarm pictured
This time, I had a strategy for my set up. I used a Grill Dome, cast iron plate setter (inverted), and the Grill Dome extender above that.  This gave me 2 advantages. First and foremost, I wanted to use the griddle surface of the cast iron plate setter to get a deep crust like a pan seared steak but with grilled taste. Second, this way I don't have to bother taking a hot pizza stone or plate setter out of the grill before I sear.

How to perfectly grill extra thick steaks, including ribeye steak, beef filet, and NY strip steaks
Steaks on! I used straight lump coal, I didn't need any additional smoke for my preferences.  I was cooking at 250°f (as measured at the dome thermometer) and it took a wee bit over 1 hour and 10 minutes to hit 128°f.  
Thermoworks remote probe thermometer has a max temp feature making it great to know when temps are falling
Two points. Notice the rack - again with the flat surfaces. If you put hot meat on a flat surface you are trapping heat and creating a steaming effect. That will loosen the tissues and allow the meat juices to seep out.  Second point - you need to let the steaks to finish their carry over cooking.  The internal temp should rise about 5-7°f  and then start falling.  That way, you know the cooking energy is depleted and quick searing it won't raise the internal temp more than 1°f.

While the meat rested, I opened up my vents and brought the cooking temp to 600°f  Then I seared the steaks for about 1 minute per side.  If I wasn't using my cast iron plate setter, I would just sear it on a grate directly over coals for about the same time.

As soon as the steaks finished, I put a red chile compound butter on them so the butter would melt.

Compound butters add a next level of flavor to your grilled meats.
Served with Alexis' pinto beans and Chef Travis Wilson's "tater tots" (Chef at Blue Wahoo Stadium).  Boiled fingerling potatoes, smashed and coated with panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings.  Then you deep fry them and hit with more Parmesan while piping hot for the best tater tots you've ever had.

Techniques for perfectly grilled steaks and best steaks for grilling.

The steaks were perfect for us! The crust was richly flavored, the butter luscious, and the insides perfectly cooked to tender, medium rare from edge to edge.

[FTC Disclaimer]  I received no compensation for this post. Craycort and Innovations by Chance/Smokeware are equipment sponsors. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Upcoming Event: North Florida Eggfest 2017

Eggfests are a blast.

Eggfests are regional food festivals where all of the food is cooked on Big Green Egg brand of ceramic kamado grills.  These aren't BBQ contests where you never get to taste the food.  These are true food festivals where you get to eat what the teams are making. 

A brand new Eggfest to put on your calendars for 2017 is the North Florida Eggfest at the Pinch-A-Penny in St. Johns, FL located in the Shops at Johns Creek.

The 2017 event is actually more of a mini-fest as they are trying to keep it small (about 15 teams) and then the 2018 event will be a full fledged event.  But you don't want to miss getting in on the ground floor of a new Eggfest, they are a lot of fun.

My sister and I are planning at cooking this Eggfest and it's looking like a bunch of our Egging friends are coming as well.  I'm thinking this one might really take off.

Here are just a few reasons to attend an Eggfest in your area, like the North Florida Eggfest:
  1. To eat some of the most creative and delicious grilled dishes around.  Eggfests are open to the general public and buying a "taster" ticket lets you sample all of the food that the cook teams are serving.
  2. Raise money for local charities.  Most Eggfests give profits from the ticket sales to a local charity.  Whether you are cooking food or eating it, you are helping out.
  3. Buy a Big Green Egg at a discount.  The Eggs used at these events are sold "used once" for discounted prices.
  4. Learn more about BBQ and grilling.  Some Eggfests have cooking classes tied in to the event. But at all Eggfests, you can learn a ton of things just by talking to the various cook teams and how they prepared their dishes for the day.
  5. Find out about what grilling accessories are available and try them out.  Great vendors like Flame Boss, Smokeware, Innovations by Chance, and Kick Ash Basket frequently attend Eggfests.
  6. Get inspired for creating new recipes on your own grill back at home.
Go ahead and put the North Florida Eggfest on your calendar for Saturday, March 11 from 10am to 3pm.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Roasted Garlic, Potato, and Queso Soup - Leftover Special

We were hungry.

It was the week before Christmas, grocery stores were slammed, and there's no way we were leaving the house.  So whatever we were going to eat HAD to come from our pantry and fridge (cough! "fridges" cough!).  Here's what we came up with ....

Leftover potato recipe, quick easy and ready in minutes.

Fortunately we have been cooking a lot for ourselves and for some work stuff so there was a good bit of leftovers from which to choose:
  • oven roasted red bliss potatoes (about 3 cups)
  • fire roasted garlic (used about 1 heaping tablespoon)
  • homemade queso dip (a little less than a cup)
  • beef stock (about 2 cups)
I mixed it all up in a medium stock pot and seasoned it with smoked ghost chili pepper salt and black pepper.  I let it all slow simmer for about 30 minutes.  

Leftover recipe with roasted potatoes, queso cheese dip, and roasted garlic
We topped it with some Penzey's taco seasoning, Mexican crema, and some shredded Oaxaca cheese.

Leftovers....they can rock.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Reverse Seared Beef Tenderloin with Cherry Bourbon Sauce

Certified Angus Beef is in da house!

I don't mean - "I went to the store, bought some C.A.B. and it's in the fridge."

Literally, Certified Angus Beef was at our home yesterday.

Chef Michael Ollier and Matt Shoup, from Certified Angus Beef Headquarters, were in Knoxville and visited our house to do a Facebook Live video about creating the perfect holiday roast.  I chose to use the beef tenderloin because it is the most tender and it is one of the faster cooking roasts.  We used the "reverse sear" technique but the tenderloin comes out great with just about any cooking method.

The recipe that we used - Beef Tenderloin with Cherry Bourbon Sauce - is special to me because this recipe is all about my family.

My sister lives in Florida and she's on our BBQ competition team.  So every time we compete in a KCBS BBQ contest or cook at a grilling/BBQ event - my parents have to watch her two dogs.  They would rather come see us of course, but they stay and watch the pups instead so we can have our fun.  

To thank my parents, we cancelled one of our events and did a family weekend with them in Florida.  This is one of the dishes that we created together.  We cooked the tenderloin on my sister's Big Green Egg and while that was going, my mom, my sister, and I came up with the cherry bourbon sauce.  We just stood around the pot, adding this - adjusting that, until it was "shut your mouth" good.  For me, that is one of the best parts about holidays - cooking with and for family and friends.

Here are the two videos from the Facebook Live event and then I'll have the recipe below these.

Reverse Seared Beef Tenderloin with Cherry Bourbon Sauce

  • 2 to 2.5 pound center cut, Certified Angus Beef tenderloin, tied
  • 1 tablespoon high temp cooking oil (canola, peanut, etc)
  • 1/4 cup beef rub (see Notes)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock for spritzing
For the Cherry Bourbon Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium sized shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 tablespoon roasted garlic
  • 1/3 cup cherry preserves
  • 6-8 quality cherries (see Notes), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons nectar from the jar of cherries
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch 
  • 1 tablespoon cold water.


  1. Set up your grill/cooker for indirect heat at 250°f.  You can use wood chunks if you like, but I prefer just using natural wood lump coal for a slight smokiness.
  2. Lightly coat the center-cut beef tenderloin with oil and liberally season the roast on all sides and ends.
  3. Place the roast on your grill and cook until it reaches an internal temperature 128°f for medium rare, between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 minutes.  If you are cooking to rare, I'd pull at 120°f.  For medium, I'd pull at 133-135°f.
  4. Meanwhile - make the cherry bourbon sauce.  Saute the diced shallot in butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Deglaze with the shot of bourbon, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.  Add the broth, garlic, and simmer for 25 minutes. 
  5. Finish the sauce.  Add the preserves, chopped cherries, and cherry nectar.  Whisk together the starch and water to make a slurry.  Whisk in the slurry and simmer for 10 more minutes.  
  6. Once the roast hits the internal temperature you are after, let the roast rest until the carry over cooking stops and the internal temperature starts to drop.  This should take 10-15 minutes.  Meanwhile switch your grill to a direct heat set up (cooking directly over heat source) and get it as hot as you can.
  7. Sear the roast directly over your "rocket hot" coals (or heat source) one each side just long enough to crisp the crust and put color on your roast.  This should only be 45 seconds to a minute per side.  
  8. Let the roast rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve with the cherry bourbon sauce drizzled on top.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Cook time: 01 hrs. 15 mins.
Total time: 1 hrs. 35 mins.


  • Beef Rub - Use a rub with low or no sugar content.  This can be as simple as Dalmation rub - equal parts coarse ground black pepper and kosher salt.  The rub we used is listed below.  It makes more than you need but we use it on brisket, steaks, and roasts so I like to make big quantities.
  • Cherries - You want really good cherries for this.  Our friend, Tom Linke, turned us on to Luxardo Cherries and that is what we use in ours.  They are ridiculously expensive but they are also amazing - like eating candy.  I've seen them in some grocery stores, I know Williams Sonoma carries them, and of course, there's always Amazon (affiliate link).

Certified Angus Beef fire roasted beef tenderloin
I got my deck set up with different styles of grills/cookers so we could show how you would roast a beef tenderloin on 7 different common types of grills.

Certified Angus Beef whole tenderloins from Food City
This is a 90 minute cook that we were demonstrating in a brief live video, so we had to have multiple roasts ready at different stages of the process.  Justin at the Morell Road Food City made sure he had enough roasts in for us.

Certified Angus Beef tenderloins processed broken down
I broke two of the tenderloins down into center-cut roasts, petite filet, kebab chunks, and the "chains".  

Nibble Me This Beef Rub Recipe
Christopher Prieto is the operator of Prime BBQ and the main contributor to Southern Living's Ultimate Book of BBQ. I highly recommend his book - it's got solid recipes.

Certified Angus Beef's roast perfect beef tenderloin free app
Here's the prepped roast that we originally did in Florida, ready to go onto the grill. 

Certified Angus Beef tenderloin roast on the grill.  Thermoworks ChefAlarm tracking the temps.
Remote probe thermometers have a wired probe that stays in the meat while it cooks and reads out to a "remote" unit so you can see the temp of your meat as it cooks.  You really need one for this process so you take your roast off at the exact temperature. You can buy remote probe thermometers at any grilling store, big box home improvement stores, and even a lot of grocery stores these days.  

Thermoworks ChefAlarm Remote Probe Thermometer has max temp data logging, great for reverse sear tracking
Another tip, always rest your steaks and roasts on a raised rack like this so it cools evenly instead of trapping heat between the meat and flat surface.  It's also important to wait to sear the roast until the internal temperature has started to fall.  This particular remote probe unit tracks the max and min temps, so it makes it easier to know when the temps have started to fall.  If buying one, look for one that features max and min temps if possible.

Certified Angus Beef is the #bestbeef for a #roastperfect meal.
Because you rested the roast and let the cooking energy dissipate, the cooking temp won't rise up during the sear portion of the reverse sear technique.  

Roasted, seared, and ready to eat.

So I think that I learned something during this Facebook Live video yesterday.  I have always been of the opinion that you don't HAVE to rest the roast a SECOND time after the sear, because the meat has already rested.  We were short on time and I had to slice as soon as the roast came off the grill.  If you watch the video, when we slice the meat looked to be medium or even medium well - no pink at all other than the smoke ring.  Chef and I were both a little shocked.  Within 5 minutes, a little myoglobin started to pool on the cutting board and the red showed up in the meat.  The only thing different about this cook was slicing immediately after the sear instead of waiting a few minutes.  Well that and it was like 20°f outside.  So I'll always do a rest after the sear.  I usually do anyway, just because I'm getting things situated but now I'll make it a apart of the process. 

Certified Angus Beef whole tenderloin
This was the roast that we seared in the video, just about 5 minutes after the video.  If you saw the video and how it looks here, you can see how much it changed.  

This is the roast that we started during the video and finished after the video ended.  Both roasts were pulled at an internal temperature of 128°f.  The only difference was the first one did not rest after the sear and this roast had about a 10 minute rest.  Lesson learned - you do need a second rest period when using the reverse sear technique, after all! 

Certified Angus Beef #roastperfect tenderloin roast
Here is the original roast that we made with my mom and sister back when we first created this recipe.  

I hope you enjoyed our video.  Thanks to Chef Michael and Matt for visiting - we enjoyed sharing the day and our home with you guys!  Also, special thanks to Justin at Food City for getting the extra tenderloins in on short notice.  That's a benefit of shopping at a store with real butchers instead of just meat stockers. 

If you could use a "personal life coach" to help you with your holiday roast, Certified Angus Beef has got you covered - they are offering their Roast Perfect app for free right now during the holidays.  The app works with Apple and Android smart phones and will tell you everything you need to know about creating that perfect beef roast for the holidays.

FTC Standard Disclaimer: Certified Angus Beef is one of our sponsors for the coming year; however, a quick scroll through my blog will show I have used their beef for years.  I have no affiliation with Food City or Luxardo cherries.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ginger Rubbed Strip Steaks with Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Veggies

Sometimes you just want something different.

I had just gotten back from Florida and had received a complimentary package of strip steaks from one of my new sponsors for 2017, Certified Angus Beef (this isn't a sponsored post, though). Normally, I'm just a salt, pepper, and maybe garlic guy with steaks but tonight I was wanting something different.  

Tennessee was smoky and grey...I was wanting something different.  Something more "Sunny Florida Beaches" than "Tennessee Smoky Mountains" and this is where that inspiration took me.

Ginger Rubbed Strip Steaks with Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Veggies

Published 12/12/2016


  • 4 Certified Angus Beef NY Strip Steaks
  • kosher salt, to taste 
  • course ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 cups cooked sweet jasmine rice
For the compound butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (red chile paste)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger paste
For the Sweet and Sour Stir Fry
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (sub another high heat oil for allergies)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into 3/4" thick rings
For the Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup Mr Yoshida's Gourmet Sauce (or a quality teriyaki sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek 
  • 1 tablespoon pineapple juice or nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger paste


  1. Make the compound butter.  Mix the ingredients together.  You can do this ahead of time but keep refrigerated until an hour before serving.
  2. Make the sweet and sour sauce.  Mix ingredients together in a medium pot and simmer over medium high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Rub the steaks with the ginger paste, a half teaspoon per steak.  Set the steaks out at room temperature for an hour.
  4. Preheat a charcoal grill to 450°f and set it up for direct heat.
  5. Grill pineapple slices until lightly browned and have grill marks - about 2 minutes per side. I like to rotate them a quarter turn on each side so you get the cross hatch marks.  Cut all but 4 of the rings into cubes.  Save the other 4 for garnish.
  6. Make the Stir Fry Veggies.  Preheat a small wok over high heat.  Add the oil and stir fry the vegetables for 6 minutes.  Add the chunked pineapple and sweet and sour sauce, cook until the sauce is thickened and slightly clinging to the vegetables, another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Grill the steaks.  Generally season both sides with salt and pepper. Grill about 4 minutes per side for medium rare, pull when they reach an internal temperature of 125-127°f.   
  8. Butter let it rest.  Immediately top each steak with 1-2 tablespoons of the compound butter and allow them to rest for 5 minutes while you prepare the plates.
  9. Serve each steak with a slice of grilled pineapple and a half cup of sweet jasmine rice topped with the sweet and sour veggies.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 40 mins.
Total time: 1 hrs. 00 mins.

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe
Honestly this might be a little more compound butter than you need but you can use the leftovers to pan toss some potatoes or throw in with some scrambled eggs.  Don't like cilantro? Use green onion instead.

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe
Grilling the pineapple concentrates it's natural sugars and amplifies it's flavor.

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe best beef
No reverse sears, sear/roasts, etc tonight - just a quick straight grilling over direct heat.  This was on my BGE Mini-Max (a small ceramic kamado grill).

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe best beef
I did the veggies this small wok on my gas grill's side burner. 

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe best beef
This really satisfied my craving for something different.  The bright flavors made me forget it was grey and blah outside.

Certified Angus Beef strip steaks recipe best beef
Perfect medium rare.

Certified Angus Beef visits Knoxville
Speaking of Certified Angus Beef, I've got Chef Michael Ollier coming to my house THIS THURSDAY (12/15/2016) at 12:30pm to do a Facebook Live video.  

We'll be talking about using a whole beef tenderloin for the centerpiece of your holiday meal.  We will be talking about how to select the perfect roast, cooking options, and we will into using the reverse sear technique on this great cut of beef.  So tune in this Thursday on the Certified Angus Beef Facebook page at 12:30pm Eastern time.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Operation BBQ Relief - What It Is Like To Be A Volunteer

In the past few weeks, "my back yard", the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas have been ravaged by wild fires.  My family's cabin on the Carolina side of the mountains was spared but up the street, the Wayah Bald fire tower built in the 1930's was burned.  On the Tennessee side, Gatlinburg was hit full force with the firestorm whipped into a rage with hurricane force winds.  Ultimately, 14 people have lost their lives and 2,400 homes and businesses were destroyed.

During times of distress like this, Fred Rogers, used to assure children...perhaps more so, adults...to look for the helpers.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to work side by side with those helpers as Operation BBQ Relief deployed at ground zero in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to feed the thousands of people who were forced from their homes and the brave first responders who were still battling the ongoing fires.  I looked into the eyes of children who had lost EVERYTHING except the clothes they had on. I saw the 1,000 yard stare on the faces of adults who were trying to figure out where to begin to start over. It was gut wrenching to witness.

But in the middle of the confusion, despair, and exhaustion that was around us, I could look to my immediate left or right and see those helpers.  Helpers from the local area handing a hot meal to soot covered fire fighters.  Helpers who drove overnight from Indiana because they saw a need. The helper who came to help because he wanted to do something meaningful for his 50th birthday. Helpers who left their families and businesses to come help strangers in need.  I saw the best of people in the worst of times.

I have talked about Operation BBQ Relief on many occasions, asking you to donate money or volunteer your time. I thought I would share what it is like to volunteer at an Operation BBQ Relief deployment, in hopes that you will SIGN UP NOW for possible future deployments or DONATE NOW.

No surprise, at first there is confusion.  We local BBQ teams were ready to roll on the first day, chomping at the bit to help, but it's not that simple.  It was an active disaster and you have to coordinate not only with everyone at OBR but also the local, state, and federal authorities. Paradise Que lead the charge for us local teams trying to assess what, where, who, and when was needed.  We just had to trust the OBR team - this isn't their first rodeo and they know what they are doing.  Out of initial chaos, you start to see the plan come together quickly. Be patient, young OBR jedi.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
This was my first volunteer experience with Operation BBQ Relief.

We were set up at the main evacuation center at the Rocky Top Sports Complex.  This is the shelter for the people evacuated from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and a center for the first responders.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Operation BBQ Relief partnered with The Zac Brown Band's Southern Ground for this relief event. They brought in this bad ass trailer which is a 53 foot long commercial kitchen complete with a walk in refrigerated unit and a huge covered dining area.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The Disaster Response Team of Operation BBQ Relief brought in two trailers of Old Hickory Pits - enough to crank out over 20,000 meals a day.  That's not a guess...they have done more than that in a given day many times.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Jason W of Backdraft Barbecue in Virginia loading on more food into one of the Old Hickory Pits.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Mick and Nick!  Mick Chessor (left) left his vineyards at Grinders Switch Winery halfway across the State to come cook for OBR. Nick, another great competition cook, came over from Mississppi.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The Operation BBQ Team knows numbers. They were constantly counting, tracking, and planning portions and meals.  Joey Rusek of Backdraft BBQ and Tommy Houston of Checkered Pig, both Virginia teams down to help out.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Alexis and I worked the service line.  On the first day, we were in the back of the house boxing up the hot meals and we had a pick up station out front.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
We could crank out batches like this in just a few minutes. Sometimes we were stocking the front pick up area.  Other times, we were making an order to be delivered off site.  Things can go slow for a few minutes then suddenly they need an order of 100 meals to go.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The Zac Brown Band's Southern Ground Tailgate unit was phenomenal. The commercial kitchen was great and the service area out front gave first responders a place to sit, eat, and restore their energy. 

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
A group of massage therapists were on hand to give free massages to evacuees and first responders. I didn't get the name of the school/business doing this.  If anyone knows, please let me know so I can update this.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
What impressed me was the sheer number of agencies responding to this event and not just the big cities. Del Rio is a small town out in Cocke County with a population of just over 2,000. 
Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Here are 21 different fire departments that happened to be in the parking lot on Friday when I had a few minutes on break.  This doesn't include Knoxville, Gatlinburg, the military, or the many police departments that also responded. This was a mass response and every community was pitching in, even small volunteer units like Sale Creek down near Chattanooga.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Not sure where this fire truck was from but it's obviously designed for fighting in remote locations.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
My favorite logo of them all, this is from the Sevier County Wildland Task Force vehicle.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Thank you to all of the amazing people and organizations that donated supplies.  It was greatly appreciated by the evacuees, first responders, and volunteers.  

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Every time groups came in from the field, we were ready to feed them.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
I've never known much about the Zac Brown Band or their music, mainly because I'm old and not cool, but I can tell you that they are some great people!

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
With BBQ taking hours and hours to cook, the back of the house was always working on something. If we were serving lunch, they were already hours into getting dinner service ready. 

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Better shot showing the cooking area set up behind the Southern Ground's trailer.

Jamie Guay (right) took time away from Flat Rock Wood Room in Hendersonville, NC to come help feed folks on the front lines.  Like I said, most of the volunteers left their businesses to help.

It was very cold but the food was always hot!

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
We met and worked with so many great people, I wish that I could list everyone involved.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Every one of the BBQ cooks at this event rock but egos did not get in the way. We all just did whatever needed to get done. Restock supplies, empty trash, build boxes....you name it and someone was stepping up to do it.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Our friend, John Molloy of Dead End BBQ, came out to help.  He and I worked the service line together.  Forgive the goofy look on my face but I was trying to take a selfie with gloves on my hands, it was COLD!

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Nick checking pork loins on the Old Hickory Pit.  Zoom in and you'll see his custom Operation BBQ Relief Thermapen is reading 143°f, just about perfect.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
I've never been so happy to be a part of feeding people.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The crews were very grateful to be receiving hot meals from some of the best BBQ cooks in the country.  It was like Alvin and the Chipmunks - we were thanking them, they were thanking us.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The cook team loading up another batch of pork shoulders for the next day's service.  Sorry for the blurry pics but 1) it was low light and 2) these guys NEVER STOP MOVING! 

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The weather turned grey and gloomy the next 2 days but the rain was desperately needed so it was welcomed with open arms.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
When the front of the house volunteers weren't actively serving meals, we were doing other things like moving hundreds of crates of bread, reconfiguring table set ups, and things like that.

Saturday we volunteers set up a service line out front because of the imminent rain.  Most volunteers worked in 4 hour blocks, Alexis and I stayed from start to finish, so we got to work with a lot of fantastic people throughout the day.  So many had their own story of how/why they got involved with this event.  

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
That's me in the Nibble Me This hoodie on the right.  I stole this from the OBR Facebook page but I am pretty sure that the photo credit goes to Webb Sanderson of BOH-FOH.  

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Fires were actively jumping within site of us.  Notice the puff of smoke in the bottom right corner along the black line.  It had been burning and helicopters were dropping water on it.  Suddenly the fire plume on the left middle popped up.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
The cook squad decided to make a little inter-squad BBQ competition to lighten the mood and have some fun.  The competition was specifically pork butts only and you only got to access your meat 4 times during the night- two looks, a wrap, and to pull it.  In addition to bragging rights, the winner got this amazing, world class BBQ trophy :)  

Jason Cole (Hot Cole's BBQ) stands as security while John Wheeler (Memphis BBQ Company co-owner) and Jamie Guay tabulate the judge's scores.  Yeah, we actually had 6 CBJ's on site so Alexis and 5 other judges scored this "mostly" along KCBS methods.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Time for the "awards ceremony".

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
John Wheeler and Tommy Houston were the emcees.  And the winner of the First Annual Gatlinburg Operation BBQ Relief Classic is.....

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
Jay Frankovich of the local BBQ competition team  'Merica Smokers.    We met Jay this past year after he relocated to East Tennessee from Texas (I think, Texas, right?).  Great family and a formidable competitor.

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
This is just one of the many crews with whom we volunteered.  Like I said, we met so many cool, wonderful people from nearby and all over the country.
Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
There were so many volunteers that there is no way I could mention them all but these two deserve special thanks.  Melanie Edmonds (Paradise Que BBQ) and April Bryan (Q We Do) were absolute rock stars. They coordinated all of the volunteers for the event which is kind of like trying to herd wet cats that were just taken off of ADHD medicine. This was way more than just getting people to show up - it was coordinating the activities of every non-cook volunteer and working with the back of the house to ensure everything flowed smoothly.  

Gatlinburg wildfire 2016 Operation BBQ Relief Deployment
John Wheeler (center right) and Tommy Houston (far right) with two men from the Oak Ridge Fire Department.  John and Tommy were the ones in charge of this deployment, making sure that everything came together.  These guys had a tough job and ran it perfectly.  

I would not hesitate to volunteer for Operation BBQ Relief again, I would do it in a heart beat.  I know people don't volunteer based on "what's in it for me" but....here's what is in it for you:

  1. You get to meet some of the best people in your area - let's face it, only good people are going to be selfless enough to do this.  
  2. You get to reduce suffering in a real and meaningful way rather than sitting at home and "wishing there was something we could do".  I mean Facebook likes are cool and all but they don't put a warm meal in someone's belly.
  3. If you are a BBQ cook, you get to work "in the trenches" with some of the best BBQ cooks in the country.  I had several conversations with different pitmasters about techniques and ideas.
  4. The BBQ competition circuit is already a family. But when you work together at something like this, you develop a special bond with your fellow competition teams.
Long story short, I'm a better person for having worked with these people.  

Operation BBQ Relief formed in the debris of the Joplin tornado disaster and has gone on in that short time to feed over 1 million meals to people in the wake of disasters.  Unlike some relief organizations, the officers of Operation BBQ Relief receive ZERO SALARY so your cash donations go directly to helping people in need - not fancy offices or exorbitant salaries.  I am NOT a spokesman for OBR and don't speak for them, I'm just a volunteer and these are my observations. You can DONATE or VOLUNTEER at their website.