Thursday, July 26, 2012

To Brine or Not to Brine....That is the Question.

A few years ago when I first got started doing BBQ, my dear mother-in-law had found me an article on brining.  The recipe was simple, 2 qts. water to 5/8 cup Kosher Salt or 1/2 cup Pickling Salt (pickling salt will break down in cold water, Kosher Salt won't).  Your most basic of brine.  I tried it on a pork loin and found it kept my pork loins tender with a good flavor.  And so began the deep, dark obsession for the perfect brine.  So what does a brine do for the BBQ process, and how can a brine bring some flavor to the party?  Basically, a brine works by hydrating the meat cells.  The salt helps to weaken the cell walls which allows more water to flow back into them in an effort to reach a balance of salinity.  While the salt initially draws out fluids, things have to work for a balance, so back in goes the liquid.  I'm sure I could have talked about osmosis, diffusion, and other scientific stuff; however, the point is BRINING IS GOOD.  Remember yall, that is a word now.  A lot of brines include sugar.  There is something to do with sugar being hygroscopic which means "absorbs water".  This explains why if you leave sugar out in the open, it will lump up and become hard as a rock.  It has absorbed moisture and locks the bonds up tight.  Since I believe table sugar is a disaccharide, it takes heat to break the bonds, so it is best to either use a monosaccharide or heat up the table sugar in a simple syrup and add it to the brine.  Better yet, you can heat your brine up to breakdown the Kosher Salt since it won't dissolve in cold water, mix in the sugar and whatever else you want-bingo!  A brining solution.  I'm sure Alton Brown does a better job of explaining the science behind it all, but you get the general gist of the message.  No, I don't have a secret lab under my house.....not yet anyway.  And yes, I do wish there was an Alton Brown Fan Club with secret decoder ring.  I digress.  So, now we have a basic brine, what else?  To be honest, I get really creative with my brines.  I have one recipe that I have conjured up that is really a great one.  Speaking of Alton Brown, he has a brine that he uses at Thanksgiving for his turkey.  I have used it for the last three years, and it is great!  Here is the link for the recipe Alton Brown's Turkey Brine.  Myron Mixon's BBQ Cookbook that I reviewed talked about his rib brine/marinade which included ginger ale, orange juice, and I believe Soy Sauce among other things. There you get the salt, the liquid and the sweet that makes a good brine.  The good thing about a brine is the longer you do it, the better it is.  Now that's not to say I would leave chicken thighs in the brine for 12 hours, but 2-4 hours is a good amount.  You aren't creating jerky.  You are just trying to infuse a little flavor that can also be done with an injection (which is basically a brine that is shot in instead of allowed to work naturally).  Be careful of your injections when it comes to a Boston Butt.  Too much salt will give it a "hammy" taste which isn't what you want.  What meats tend to accept brines well you ask?  Any white meat, dark poultry meat, seafood, pork, ribs, whatever you like.  While I have never brined a brisket, you can and you will wind up with pastrami.  As for recipes for a brine, you can surf the web and find dozens of them.  If you look at many recipe books for chicken, they call for brining in Italian Salad Dressing or Raspberry Vinaigrette.  The effect is the same:  breaking down those cell walls so the meat can accept more liquid and flavor.  More liquid equals moister BBQ.  So next time you have some chicken or a nice pork loin that is going on the smoker, give a brine a try.  I don't think you will be disappointed.  And we all know that good BBQ is always Good Eats.....that's shout out to Alton Brown or "AB" in the know.  Yall enjoy and Riley says hello.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book

It's time for another review of yet another BBQ book I have read in an effort to improve my 'Q'ology.  Yes, I made that word up, but you really can't argue with it or the definition:  'Q'ology:  noun 1. The study of taking of a variety of meats, applying spices and the smoke from a low and slow fire, mixed with some time with those you really like hanging around in order to turn out some really good supper.  2.  A word made up by Jeff Stone.  'Q'ology.  This book does 'Q'ology with a reflection on the roots of Big Bob Gibson himself.  Anyone living in or around Decatur, AL has probably heard of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ and their white sauce.  While Big Bob didn't write this book himself, Chris Lilly has taken time from his competition-winning, restaurant-running days to pen a book that is a bit of a hybrid.  Make no mistake, Chris shares some good recipes of all kinds, but he also tells a story of a man who took a chance and made good on it.  Big Bob Gibson started doing 'Q' waaaaaay back in the day and he learned to do it right.  Chris started out right out of college and had the opportunity to learn from the man himself, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The book shares a lot of pictorial history about a man who set out to feed his family and wound up doing pretty well with it.  One quote from the book that I found particularly poignant was from Big Bob himself, "You don't need a laundry list telling you what to do.  Just sit on the stump and listen.  The chickens will whisper to you when they need to be flipped.  The pork will sing when it is finished smoking.  The fire will wink at you when another log is needed.  No list, no clock, no thermometer can tell you how to cook good barbecue.  You sit in the corner and you just know."  Now, for those who know me and my obsessive nature and attention to detail and order (my teammates refer to me as Adolph at competitions) will know that this goes against all there is in me.  A sort of flying by the seat of my pants if you will.  With that said, what Big Bob said makes tons of sense.  This book tries to highlight the fact barbecuing is not wholly a science as much as it is a combination of science, art, black magic, skills, experience, and plain old blind luck with a hint of love tossed in for good measure.  Chris does a good job of doing the basics. He breaks down the different spices, how to 'build' a good rub, how to make a good sauce, even that white sauce.  He discusses the effect of different types of woods, what to look for when making good barbecue, and he talks about what to do to get the best 'Q'.  If you are looking for a BBQ book that jumps out of the gate with "Do X at time Y for Z duration", this may not be the book for you.  If you are, however, looking for a BBQ book that pays homage to the man himself while imparting some good cooking technique and delicious looking recipes, this just may be the book for you.  Chris honors Big Bob by sharing Big Bob's experiences and history. What you will get is a history lesson, a cooking lesson, several recipes and enough wins in professional competitions to back up what he presents.  I've seen Chris on some of the BBQ shows, and he does pretty dadgum well for himself.  He is from Alabama, so he has that going for him right out of the gate.  His style was given to him by Big Bob; however, not all of the recipes are original to Big Bob.  The recipes Chris shares in this book look and sound great.  Brunswick Stew, Big Mama's chow chow, Spicy Cuban Black Beans and Rice, Caramel Pecan Mini-Pies, Carolina Mustard Sauce, Passion Fruit Butter Sauce, and many other mouth-watering recipes.  As for the white sauce...I'll take the Beatles White Album, 'Bama's white away jersey, fresh white snow, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Ms. Lilly White, don't do right, everything's gonna be alright, turn on the white light, and even a little don't shoot until you see the white's of their eyes, but I'm not so sure about a barbecue sauce made with mayonnaise.  I guess a road trip to Decatur, AL might be in order.  Maybe Chris will let me sit on the stump.  I'm guessing no.      

Friday, July 13, 2012

Austin's Smokin' Butt Hut

Well I went and did it.  I had first my BBQ Americana interview today.  On the way home from Panama in Fountain up 231, or down depending on your direction, there is a place called Austin's Smokin' Butt Hut.  I had been passing this place for over a year and wondered how good the BBQ was there.  Today, I answered that question, and the answer is pretty dadgum good.  Yes, dadgum is a word.  The owner, Sam Denham (sp), is retired and does just BBQ now.  Surprising, his name is not Austin.  Austin is his grandson.  As I was told, the owner said if Austin got into trouble at grandpa's house, he would smoke his butt.  Hence the name Austin's Smokin' Butt Hut.....well that and it is a kind of hut with wheels.  They do ribs and butts, but they also do all kinds of other things.  You have your choice of sauces that are sweet, sweet/heat (yum yum), and sweet/savory.  I got the pulled-pork sandwich with sweet/heat sauce.  I was not disappointed.  My little slice of heaven was served simply in an aluminum wrap, and it was a good sized sandwich.  The pork was smoked using oak and was perfectly tender with a hint of cumin that rounded out the flavor profile nicely.  In the other categories outlined the other day:  The very nice lady, Bobbie, who served up the 'Q' and is the manager did say, "Sugar" and "Hun" several times, there was a screen door on the smoker trailer, the smoker was visible, they had the unique metal pig that was smoking away, it was a trailer versus a huge building, and it was one-of-a-kind.  They even have a metal pig bell that you ring for service.  Try that at a fancy shmancy place.  Shmancy....look it up.  There were no plastic signs with Coke or Pepsi products; however, allegedly there is a dog that stays with the owner but he wasn't there.  There wasn't a wooden porch, but there were some big telephone poles propped up so someone could sit there if they were so inclined.  Seating probably isn't their intended purpose, but neither was my truck hood a dining table until today.  In the immortal words of Gunny Hiway, "Improvise, adapt, overcome."  I really enjoyed the stop.  Life gets to be a lot sometimes, so we gotta take those little snippets of mellowness where we can get them.  So, if you are feeling stressed and see a smoking metal pig, pull in, have a good BBQ sandwich and tell Bobbie I said hello.  She might even call you hun', or sugar.  Probably will.....she's nice that way.  Look them up on facebook at Austin's Smokin' Butt Hut.  
The Smokin' Pig.  If it's smokin', they're open

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Good Old-Fashioned BBQ....Looking for some good eatin'

I am from the South.  I think that point is already made clear.  Growing up, some of my first BBQ was with my granddaddy and  from 231 BBQ which is, surprise surprise, on 231 in Midland City, AL.  Of course, Dobb's in my hometown of Dothan was always around growing up.  Both cool places.  So, a couple of days ago, I posted an idea on Facebook where I would be on the look out for other local BBQ spots, and now I need your help folks.  Yes, many have said I have needed help for a long time, but that's another story.  Anywho, I am looking for BBQ places where I can sample the 'Q', talk with the proprietor and get their take on what makes good 'Q' to them.  No chain restaurants please.  Once you franchise, you lose that certain individuality.  I have created two categories of criteria:  1)  The BBQ and (2) The place itself.  In the first category, I'm looking at what they make, the taste, and  the presentation.  For the second category, I'm looking for places with plastic signs with either Coke or Pepsi products mentioned on them, a wooden porch, a screen door, a dog close by, a smell of smoke that permeates the entire place with extra points for smoked out windows, and something that just stands out and makes the place unique.  In short, the kind of place that looks like an after thought in the BBQ world.  Wouldn't that be a great road trip?  Driving around the Deep South looking for great places, trying all kinds of BBQ, and meeting the people that keep the art of BBQ alive.  People who have sauce in their veins and can talk about BBQ all day.  Genuine Americana.  Who knows, maybe I'll see someone from those pictures in the post office that have huge rewards attached to them....unless that person is the one running the BBQ place and bad, bad, bad things happen there.  In that case, I will feign a foreign accent and pretend I don't understand English while trying to communicate in broken English, "Where can I get my oil changed in my cheap rental car?"  I won't run away because I tell everyone, "If you see me running, you might want to try to keep up because something really scary is chasing me."  Anyway, back to the 'Q' hunt.  If you see a place and think it would be a good spot to check out that meets the criteria, send me a comment on my blog, e-mail me @, or you can tweet me @ awolafsp.   I've got a couple of places scoped out already which sounds a little like stalking but it isn't, least not in a statutory sense.  Stay tuned.  If you see me out and about, honk and wave with all the fingers please.  I'll wave back.  It's how I roll....again it's something else I hear the cool kids say these days.  Darn kids.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First official review for me. Smokin' with Myron Mixon

Myron Mixon is quite a bit deal on the BBQ circuit.  If you don't believe me, just ask him, and he'll tell you and probably with language I wouldn't use around my Baptist Minister father-in-law.  I hear he actually is a pretty nice guy and not the persona you see on t.v.'s BBQ Pitmasters or other BBQ shows.  He is from the Deep South, even if it isn't Alabama, which is a good start.  While I haven't met him yet, notice I said yet, I have seen him at the competitions I have been in, and yes, he wins a lot....consistently.  As they say, "He can talk the talk because he can sure enough walk the walk."  Granted that talk may have some colorful language mixed in with it, but the talk none the less.  So, if one wants to know how to win, one must ask or research what the winner does in order to garnish that important grand championship.  Who better to gain intel from than the man who has won over 180 Grand Championships, 30 state championships, 11 national championships (still not as many as the Crimson Tide but that's another matter), and three-time Grand World Champion at the Memphis in May event.  That folks is some serious street cred' as they say on t.v.  That's where his BBQ book comes into play.  Smokin' with Myron Mixon is quite a good BBQ cook book if I do say so myself, and since it is my blog I will.  I bought a copy for my Color Nook about a two months before a competition in 2011.  When I used some of his ideas and tips, we took Grand Champion in Backyard Division at the Foggy Bottom BBQ Bash in Elba, AL.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Granted it wasn't in the pro division, but it still was quite a happy day for Team Grandpa's Pride BBQ.  Baby steps folks.  I didn't follow his book to the 'T', but I did try to incorporate some of his theory into my own style.  After all, it still has to be my 'Q'.  His book covers a little bit about all aspects of BBQ cooking from his equipment, rubs, marinades, cooking styles, and little tricks to keep it great.  Luckily for me, it has a some pictures.  He talks about how to do ribs, pork, chicken, and beef, and what he does to prepare them in competitions.  His theory, as outlined in the book, is pretty simple:  I'll teach you what I do and I'll still beat you because of experience.  And he does just that....again....and again....and again.  One of Myron Mixon's most famous twists to the BBQ world is his cupcake pan chicken.....well, that and winning enough money to burn a wet mule.  In this book, he teaches you how to do it just like he does....the cupcake pan chicken that is and not burning a wet mule because burning a wet mule would be wrong and probably get P.E.T.A. in a hissy.  Anyway, there is a good bit of honesty in this book.  When you finish reading the book, you feel like a magician has pulled back his cape and shown the world all of his tricks.  That takes some serious stones.  In reading the book, I could actually in my mind's eye see Myron sitting at a computer with Dragon Speak or some other talk-to-type program and rattling out a book.  It is an easy and entertaining read which is made more interesting because he added some of his personal history and how BBQ was core to his upbringing.  He also covers a bevy of additional side recipes to include an adult beverage which sounds pretty darn tasty.  Yes, he comes across as gruff and even a bit arrogant, but he does impart a good bit of knowledge in how to do some good and tasty 'Q' which is what it's all about.  Right?  I look forward to meeting him.  Maybe I'll get all star struck at the next competition and have him sign my Nook....that or my chest....which is a little creepy even to me and would require a good bit of shaving, so I'll stick to the Nook.  Yeah, definitely the Nook.    

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I am still trying to get the hang of this blogging, but I have some ideas.  First of all, thank you for reading this today.  While I sort out my schedule, I do have some ideas on what topics I plan to cover.  All of the topics will center around BBQ (of course).  I'm interested in branching out and experiencing different types of BBQ from around the world.  We have a restaurant in Dothan, AL (God's country and my home town) called Taj  It is a mix of Indian, Greek, and BBQ.  Yes, Indian and BBQ in the same place.  Only in the south would you get this combination.  The owner, Ritesh, bought the place after it was a BBQ place.  When the owners left, they left everything one needed to start BBQ, and yes the food and people are great.  So that is my starting point.  I want to find those interesting places that sell good 'Q', meet the people that make the magic, and maybe, just maybe learn a thing or two that I can share with others.  I'm also looking to write a review of some BBQ cook books.  I have purchased and read Myron Mixon's book which was pretty good; Chris Lilly's (of Big Bob Gibson's BBQ fame); and the Dummy's Guide to BBQ.  My hope is someone will find a nugget of knowledge that will be helpful to them.....with a little humor thrown in.  The feedback is appreciated.  Y'all take care.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where does "BBQ" come from?

So in case you are on final Jeopardy and need to know the history of BBQ, here you go.  BBQ goes way back in local history.  By local, I mean the West Indies.  The term "Barbacoa" was used to describe any meat cooked over a slow and low heat.  The term BBQ migrated to the American slaves who were given the lesser cuts of meat with which they had to fashion into a decent supper.  The quality of these meats meant they had to be cooked over a low and slow heat so the connective tissues would break down.  As a result, there was some good eatin' going on.  The use of low heat and smoke was used for centuries by the American Indians as a way to preserve their meats and fish.  They made it into a jerky type of food, but the principle is the same.  Here is a link should you have an unquenched thirst for more BBQ history, complements of Wikipedia.  Wikipedia link to the history of BBQ.  Thanks and enjoy.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ever wonder where BBQ sauce origninated?

I'm sure many of you lay awake at night pondering the origins of BBQ sauce.  I know I do....that and a dog that keeps trying to jump into bed with my wife and me.  In an effort to add to the R.E.M. sleep of America, I give you the origins of BBQ sauce.  In the old days, like pre-1950 but much more like the 1700's, spices were very expensive and often hard to come by.  In an effort to give cooked meats some flavor, our founding fathers would dip the meat in vinegar.  As the sauce moved down to the western Carolina coast, they started adding pepper, a little sugar and other spices that were available.  Since tomatoes did so well in the eastern part of North Carolina, as the sauce migrated that way, people began to add tomatoes to the sauce.  You see where this is going right?  When it drifted towards South Carolina, mustard was the spice of the area, so now you have South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce.  Since then, people have been creating their own sauces.  My recipe originated from my grandmother and grandfather.  My grandfather often tells the stories of when he and my grandmother owned a little hotdog stand, and people would line up for their BBQ.  I've since tweaked the original recipe, but it is still basically their own recipe, and I am eternally grateful for it.  My grandfather is so protective of the recipe that when he gave it to me he had this one caveat, "Now Jeff, if something happens to you and Sherri, you be sure to get this recipe back."  Wow.  I do love Shellie D.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

So in an effort to not spend $1,500.00 to $1,329,554.88 on a smoker, my trusty father-in-law and I built what I refer to as the Frankensmoker Mk. 2.1.  It is made from oak veneered plywood lined with insulation and aluminum.  Yes, it does get quite a lot of looks and funny expressions from people; however, when coupled with the BBQ Guru, it keeps a nice and steady temperature for as long as I keep the fuel to it.  When we used it at the Foggy Bottom BBQ Bash last November, we got Grand Champion in the Backyard Division......which is nice.  This year, we are going pro.  The worst we could do is dead last.  Here are some photos of the Frankensmoker Mk. 2.1.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Inaugural Posting from Grandpa's Pride BBQ

Well here we go.  This is the inaugural post of the Grandpa's Pride BBQ blog.  We will be posting on all things BBQ with an emphasis on our little BBQ team called "Grandpa's Pride."  Hopefully, you will find links or posts that interest you.  Please feel free to share your own information or links that are related to all things BBQ.  Please keep it clean folks.  Stay tuned and we will update with more information.