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. Well...it 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.