Monday, April 14, 2008

"New" Smoker for the Big Dog BBQ Team

Made my first ever purchase from Craig's List - and I think I did pretty well. This is a pretty darn new smoker - I was told it was only used about 6 times and was purchased at the end of Oct 2007. So it should be only 5-6 months old. With the optional "temperature package" (which is just a decent thermometer) is would run about $300 list before tax. I got it for $100. The guy is moving to Arizona and into an apartment, so he couldn't see dragging it all the way over there just to have to put it in storage. His loss is my gain.

From the fellers at CBBQA and the BBQ Brethren, I was pointed to the "Bandera 101" document for tips on modifications (or mods as they are known in BBQ lingo) to make these units work better. I am happy to report that at least one of the mods is now standard on the unit - the exhaust pipe is down all the way to the grate level, keeping more smoke in the chamber.

I need to build a basket for wood/coals, and see what I can do to weather-proof the doors to cut down on drafts. Might think about adding wheels on the two legs that don't have them as well.

Other than that she should be good to go.

Here is mascot Wallace with the new smoker:

Just waiting for fire:


Detail of the low pipe design:


If you have any tips or tricks related to using one of these type units, please feel free to share. I am also looking for tips related to building a basket with no welding.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

CBBQA Backyard 3 - March Meat Madness

Big Dog BBQ was represented at this CBBQA event as a judge. A Backyard Competition is a practice competition, giving team a chance to go up against other teams, try new techniques, test out that new rub, etc - and to do so in a friendly atmosphere. It's all about continuing to learn to help you do better in your next showing.

This was a reschedule from the original event date back in January, that date we got rained out. So imagine our surprise when we started getting calls and posts on the CBBQA Forum on Friday that the event had to be canceled again! Originally this was going to be help in a residential neighborhood, and the host was tied up in important business meetings that he couldn't get away from. BUT - within about 90 minutes a new team and member had saved the day! Thanks Hershel!

I was on the road at 6 AM, behind schedule already. But was able to get gas and make it up to Santa Ana River Lakes in Anaheim in about 90 minutes. It was cold and wet. Forecast called for clearing about noon, so we had hope for some sun...but it never did show. It just got colder. But it was a great location with lots of entertainment from the folks fishing right next to us, the various fowl running about, and the big turkey making his way through the area at the end of the day.

There were a number of great gifts donated for prizes.

Grand Champion, Reserve Grand Champion and the number 3 team all received Forschner knives donated by BLQUE and
Grand Champion also received the huge basket full of BBQ goodies from Eggs by the Bay and Darry Smith.
1st, 2nd and 3rd slots in each category (pork ribs, chicken, Tri-tip and Anything Butt) got homemade Apple or Pecan pie, brownies, or chocolate chip cookies. Nice stuff! Thanks Kristin!

We ended up with 10 teams at the event. We lost a few teams from the original list, but still a good turnout. I thought it was very interesting to see all of the different cooking tools. Everything from Weber kettles, to Brinkman vertical smokers, to a medium Spicewine all the way up to a big ole 5th wheel based, custom built smoker rig.

Teams rolled in and set up, got wood or charcoal going. Worked on preparing their meats. The usual.

But being a Backyard event it was very relaxed. Judges were allowed to come early and socialize with the teams (which was great for me). I wanted around and chatted with folks from various teams. This was my first CBBQA event so I wanted to meet folks and start putting faces to the names I see on the forum. Everyone was very friendly, as you would expect from folks that love BBQ!

Cooks meeting took place. KCBS rules. Then we had a short class from Kristin on how to put together your turn in boxes. This was great for me as I've never been to a competition before! Also, there were a lot of first time teams at this event, so helpful for a lot of folks. Then the judges meeting. As this was a practice event and geared at learning and bettering your craft, we did a few extra things while judging. We included comments on each entry, and shared those with the cooks after all the judging was done. The judges were encouraged to chat with each other between categories (not while judging!) to compare those on different pieces. This was a chance for judges to learn too - like the teams, we had a lot of new judges. We also got a report at the end of the day that let us know how our scoring compared with the others at the table - just as a way to gauge if you might be judging too harsh or too easy, or just about the same as the majority. Just a few CBJ's, a lot of folks had judged just once before, and a few (like me) who were judging for the first time.

Then it was time to wander some more and see how folks were doing. Bentley was there with his UDS and put out a fattie (yum, by the way) and some other goodies to share. Later they put out the homemade Gyros - just before the judging, so I didn't eat any.

The judging was interesting. We had ten teams, so we split the 12 judges into 2 tables each judging 5 teams. I was warned not to eat too much from each sample, but in the end I could have eaten more!

You are reminded that as a judge you need to make your own decision, and to judge each piece on its own - not in comparison to the others you have eaten. You judge on three criteria - Appearance, Taste and Texture. These are weighted so that Taste is most important, then Texture, then Appearance. Scores from 2 - 9 (1 - disqualified).

This is all harder than it seems - assuming that you want to do a good job and be fair and consistent. I hope it gets easier with practice and experience - it must. It is an interesting process and I enjoyed taking part. Good to finally get my feet wet!

There is a full set of Rules and Regulations in the judging procedures, the meat turn-ins, disqualifications, etc. These are set out each year in the Kansas City Barbeque Society Official Rules and Regulations / Judging Procedures.

It was a fun day. What a nice group of folks! Looking forward to doing more in the future.

The ride home sucked. Way too much traffic for a Saturday evening. But I got home safe and that's what matters.

Teams at the event:
  1. Funtime BBQ
  2. When Pigs Fly BBQ
  3. Smell My Butts BBQ
  4. Yanqui Pit Boss
  5. Four Q BBQ
  6. Andre Macedo BBQ
  7. Leanza's BBQ
  8. 7 Kinds Of Smoke BBQ
  9. Road Whore BBQ
  10. Professional Cookers, Inc.

You can review the results at:

See my photos at: 

Professor Salt got some photos too: 

More event info and details:

Friday, February 1, 2008

New BBQ Team - Here It Is - Big Dog BBQ

From the beginning...

Been planning on starting a BBQ competition team at some point. Seems like a great confluence of some good stuff - Friends, Family, Barbecue, Competition, Fun, and probably a few Adult Beverages along the way -- what's not to like!

Originally, way, way back (OK, three months ago) I thought about joining this California BBQ Association (CBBQA) group that I ran across on the Internet to have some fun, learn more about the pit, and get out to a few competitions (at this point I wasn't thinking about actually competing). This was going to be "my thing". My quiet (or not so quiet) time.

Too many years ago I decided that I was going to start fishing again. Did it as a kid and had fun. I spend a lot of time at work. I needed something to get away. So Jen and I figured I'd go fishing each Saturday AM when it is cold and dark and she can stay in a nice warm bed. I'd get out, have some time alone, etc. never happened. Not once.

I had been picking at smoking meats in a cheap little Char-Broil vertical smoker. Got turned on to this at the HVOC October Dog Trials in 2006. Dinner at the Judges Dinner was fantastic. The best stuff? The smoked Tri-tip and best of all the smoked salmon. Man, that stuff was out of this world! Gary and Mike were smoking gods in my view that day. What fine choice piece of BBQ equipment turned out this fantastic grub? Two crappy old vertical smokers! As they say - it's not the tools, it's how you use them. It's true.

So a few months later I got my first vertical. Didn't really know what I was doing (like I do now!). Mike and Gary gave me some pointers here and there, but we never did sit and do a cook together. I know now I had some big flaws in my technique. My biggest gaff was using too much smoking wood. I had it in my mind that smoke should be piling out of that smoker! Some is good, more is better. Right?? Wrong...

Jen wasn't too stoked on my products. Good sport that she is she ate it. But funny thing - we never seemed to pull the 80% of the ribs left out of the freezer to eat. Hummmmm.

Oct 2007 saw us evacuated from the house. Living in San Diego for 10 days with the in-laws, our two big boys, and the three pain-in-the-butt cats. Those folks are really good sports to put up with us taking over their hose for that long with all those furry kids.

Upon returning home we mad our first ever trip to Lowe's. Jen ran across the smokers and asked me if I wanted a new one. I said no, what I have is working. Then I saw that the Brinkmann lifted off the charcoal pan. This is great - this is like the one Gary has. I love that you can pull off the smoking chamber, add another chimney of charcoals, and lift it back on. No more using the long tongs to push lit coals in there one by one. And for $50 or something like that - how can you go wrong.

I love that lift off feature, I have many others. Biggest grip? No air controls. Not a single one!
It's also thin so looses a lot of heat right through the walls. So this is when all the BBQ forums call them ECB's -- El Cheapo Brinkmann...

I'm better with the wood now. My biggest challenge at this point is keeping a steady temperature. I've only done two cooks on it. Some leftover pork chops - came out nice, but dry - and a turkey. That was cool. Learned a lot. Brined it. It was lovely. Tasted nice too.
Temperatures were all over the place. That made it hard at times. Wild swings! But in the end it finally kicked over and got to temperature. Whoo hooo!

Learned through the CBBQA Forums about the Certified BBQ Judge (CBJ) title and how to get one. So I joined the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). I signed up for a Backyard practice competition with the CBBQA folks - and I was going to judge. Cool! Get a nice peak into how it all works, then later in the year take the CBJ class and get certified.

Turns out there was a waiting list for judges, so I gave up my spot and signed up to help a team's head cook that was without his team. Thom even said I could do the "Anything Butt" - which is just anything that isn't a competition meat. He said there are some interesting things sometimes. He was thinking about doing chips and salsa before he gave me the task. Jen was going to make a dessert for me to bring. I won't say what it was here because the event was rescheduled due to rain and I might just bring it on March 1st. But Thom can't make the new date because he recently started up a BBQ catering company and he has a job that weekend.

But not to worry. I've already signed on with another team. I'll be working with the Four Q BBQ, Bigmista and the crew. Another great opportunity to learn a heck of a lot. Should be a fun time too.

So that brings me current and back to the title of this post. The folks on the CBBQA web site have decided to build a page for the backyard BBQ members as well as the competition teams. So I figured it was time to get to it and come up with a team name - even if we don't cook a comp till next year!

One we have been tossing around for a bit was Bark B Que. We are dog people. I also thought it worked well because of the play on words with meat bark. But we didn't like the way it rolled off the tongue - or didn't. The next one did, and I thought we had a winner - zoobecue. This worked because for years we have called our place "The Zoo" because of all the animals. But in the end we decided it wasn't dog enough, and Jen thought you all might expect us to be cooking some real exotic meats.

Did I mention that our dogs are large. Real big. Hey, lookie there. A name was born. Welcome to Big Dog BBQ.