Monthly Archives: January 2011

This Past Week in News — Again

Here are my picks for the “best of” from the previous week:

A Tasket, A Tisket, I Just Cooked My First Brisket

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that this weekend would be the weekend that I would cook my first brisket.  And as it turned out, the weather could not have been more perfect!

The brisket was an 8 1/2 lb whole packer brisket — small by normal standards, but plenty for just two of us.  Because this was my first brisket, I knew better than to get a Wagyu brisket, so mine came from the glorious meat market known as Wal-Mart.  Yeah… I know what you’re thinking…  but it’s my first, and I’m not gonna buy a $50 piece of meat for my first trial run.

I took it out of the freezer Wednesday evening and put it in the refrigerator to thaw out.  Last night was prep night for me.  I attempted to trim up the brisket without taking out too many hunks of meat (which I feel I did an adequate job).  After trimming, I patted the meat dry, seasoned it liberally with Strawberry’s Shake-On Bar-B-Que Seasoning, and put it back in the refrigerator.

This morning, I fired up the smoker (a New Braunfels Bandera vertical offset) and got the brisket in by 8:15am.  After a lot of research, I decided to go with a little higher cooker temperature, keeping the smoker between 250 and 300 degrees.  As a treat to myself, I also put some pig candy in the cooker a few minutes after noon today.  As a result, I took the opportunity to get a sneak peek at my experiment:

Brisket @ 4 hours in.

Brisket @ 4 hours in.

So far it was looking tasty.  At around 4:15 this afternoon, I took a temperature reading.  The thermometer shot up to 185 degrees, and the probe slid in like butter, so off it came!  After resting a few minutes, it was time to slice.

Brisket sliced

Brisket sliced

Single Slice

Single Slice

Multiple slices

Multiple slices

Then it was time for the taste test.  I gave two pieces to my wife — one closer to the thinner end of the brisket, and one closer to the point.  She noted that the outer bark was a bit salty (probably a product of using too much rub).  In her opinion, both slices were very tender.  The slice closer to the point was much more moist, but the other slice had more flavor.

All in all, the brisket turned out about as well as I expected it to.  While it was not a competition-winning brisket, it didn’t completely suck either. The encouraging bit of information from today was that my wife (a self-professed non-fan of brisket) said she would eat it again.

It’s progress, but back to the drawing board…

It’s a bird… NO, it’s a plane… NO! It’s a Super Fatty!

Normally I don’t do a link and run post (I try to save those up for the weekly “best of” blog entries on Sundays).  However, I recently came across a post from DivaQ (@DivaQBBQ on Twitter) for an “ultimate bacon jalapeño sausage super fatty” as a suggestion for a Super Bowl party appetizer.

Seriously… do yourself a favor and go look at this.  Now.  Be sure to have a napkin, towel, or something close-by to clean up the drool.

Review: Old Hickory House Restaurant — Charlotte, NC

On my ever-going search for good BBQ in Charlotte, I stumbled across a place close to my job called the Old Hickory House Restaurant.  After reading a few reviews about it on Yelp, I decided to give it a shot.   (Today’s pictures brought to you again by my crappy cell phone camera)

Old Hickory House Restaurant Sign

Old Hickory House Restaurant Sign

Old Hickory House Restaurant

Old Hickory House Restaurant

I walk in, and I’m instantly transported back in time.  The wood paneling walls and country-style cafe seating give the place a down-home feel.

Interior of Restaurant

Interior of Restaurant

Interior of Restaurant 2

Interior of Restaurant 2

Immediately after I sit down, the sweetest little old lady came by to take my order.  After browsing the menu, I decided on the pork and beef plate with hush puppies and BBQ beans.  I requested the pork chopped and the beef sliced.  Apparently you can ask for the sauce on the side.  However, I forgot to do so.  Five minutes after ordering, my food was delivered.

Beef and Pork Plate, with BBQ Beans and Hush Puppies

Beef and Pork Plate, with BBQ Beans and Hush Puppies

In one word: unremarkable.  There were three slices of beef between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.  It reminded me more of roast beef than beef brisket.  The pork wasn’t terribly dry.  None of the meats had any smoke taste or flavor.  The beans were pretty bland.  There were bits and pieces of the pork dispersed throughout the beans.  The best part of the meal was probably the hush puppies.  With the exception of one hush puppy (which was probably from an older batch fried up), they were very crisp and not greasy at all.

The service was very friendly, warm, and down-home.  If only the food matched that… thus my search for great BBQ continues.  This wasn’t it.

This Past Week in “News”

I’ve decided on Sundays to peruse through the blogs I follow and come up with a “Best of” for the previous week.  So without delay, here is my pick for “best of” posts for this past week:

Do you know of any BBQ-related or grilling-related blogs I need to follow?  You can let me know by leaving a comment below or by sending me a message.

NC BBQ Tweet-Up at Lexington #1

Lexington BBQ #1

Lexington BBQ #1

As I mentioned in my previous post, today I got to meet up with several great people this afternoon.  I traveled about an hour northeast on I-85 to meet up with Cyndi (and her son), John (and his son), and Fred (who won a Masterbuilt smoker giveaway on Cyndi’s blog).  Our destination: Lexington BBQ #1.  I think this section of the blog entry can be best said in pictures rather than words:

The gang (from left to right): Fred, Cyndi, John, me

The gang (from left to right): Fred, Cyndi, John, me

John and his son chowing down

John and his son chowing down

Cyndi cheesing it up

Cyndi cheesing it up

Fred enjoying some chopped pork

Fred enjoying some chopped pork

John about to "anoint" Fred with Carolina Treet

John about to "anoint" Fred with Carolina Treet BBQ Sauce.

BBQ ABUSE!

BBQ ABUSE!

After John and his son left, the rest of us were treated to a nice surprise.  While making conversation with an employee, he told us that we could ask for a tour of the smokehouse.  We got to talk with the Ricks, who were the pitmasters manning the fire that afternoon.  Below are some pictures of that tour.

Sweet sweet smoke

Sweet sweet smoke

The smokehouse

The smokehouse

The wood pile

The wood pile

Tending the coals inside the smokehouse

Tending the coals inside the smokehouse

FIRE!

FIRE!

Tending to the meat

Tending to the meat

All in all, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  I got to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in a few months, and I got to meet a fellow Twitterer face to face.  In my opinion, it’s definitely worth a repeat performance!

Review: Lexington BBQ #1 — Lexington, NC

Today I had the opportunity to meet up with some really great people today at Lexington BBQ #1 in Lexington, NC.  I will talk about that in a different blog post.

The first thing I observed about Lexington #1 is that YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE!  Google Maps Navigation failed me on the address that I found on Yelp, instead trying to put me at a different restaurant.  I wondered if it was some kind of conspiracy.  However, the next address I found for it was correct.  I arrive to an extremely full parking lot and a mad dash in an attempt to find an open spot.  Clearly people love this place.

Lexington BBQ #1 Signage

Lexington BBQ #1 Signage

Once we all get seated, our waitress comes around to take our orders.  While there were burgers and other items on the menu, we came there for one reason: pork!  At Lexington BBQ #1, they serve BBQ three different ways: chopped, coarsely chopped, and sliced.  I ordered the large coarsely chopped BBQ tray with hush puppies and asked for extra “brown” (which is the outer bark from the pork shoulder).  Shortly after ordering, out comes the food:

Lexington BBQ #1 Coarsely Chopped BBQ

Lexington BBQ #1 Coarsely Chopped BBQ

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up 2

Coarsely Chopped BBQ -- Close-Up 2

The pork was presented in a tray that was about the size of a 3×5 note card, and about 3/4 – 1 inch deep.  I was immediately pleased at the amount of “brown” that was in my tray, because this gave promise to lots of flavor.  As I took bite after bite, I was not disappointed.  The pork was very flavorful and moist — not dry in the least bit whatsoever.  The only thing that was somewhat disappointing was that the pieces of brown were a little tough to chew.  The flavor it brought out, however, more than made up for it.

One of my former co-workers recommended to me one time that if I ever went to a BBQ restaurant in Lexington, ask for an extra cup of dip.  In Lexington, dip is a thin mopping sauce that contains very small amounts of ketchup and sugar to go along with the vinegar and other spices.  I’m very glad that I did.  Adding a small amount of the dip to my BBQ really enhanced the flavors of the pork.

Lexington BBQ #1 Hush Puppies

Lexington BBQ #1 Hush Puppies

The hush puppies were delicious!  They were very crunchy, flavorful, and (best of all) not greasy.  I could have made myself completely full just on the hush puppies alone (which I nearly did).

Lexington BBQ #1 Slaw

Lexington BBQ #1 Slaw

Normally I am not a fan of red slaw.  I usually find it a bit too tangy.  However, this slaw complemented the rest of the meal well.  It was very crunchy with just enough tang to act as a perfect side to the slaw.

Lexington BBQ #1 Peach Cobbler

Lexington BBQ #1 Peach Cobbler

I even left enough room for peach cobbler.  The peach cobbler was good, but nothing really outstanding.  It just didn’t have that “wow” factor, in my opinion.  Plus, I’m still trying to figure out where in the world they were able to find a rectangular ice cream scoop.

All in all, the food at Lexington BBQ #1 was worth the drive up from Charlotte.  The fact that I got to partake of the BBQ with a great group of people made it even better!

I Have Tasted Heaven, and It Tastes Like Pig Candy

About a month or so back, I came across a blog post by DivaQ regarding pig candy.  You can find her post here.  As I finally arrived home and began to prepare dinner (burgers on the grill… tasty tasty!), the lure of bacon bacon bacon lingered in the back of my mind.  I said to myself, “Self, I should do some smoked pig candy tonight.”

Now for those of you who are wondering what in the world pig candy is, pig candy is candied bacon.  To go with tonight’s burgers, I fried up some bacon to function as a condiment.  In addition, I set aside a few slices of bacon to do an experimental batch of pig bacon on the grill.    Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of the final product, so you will just have to use your imagination.

The bacon I used was thick-sliced bacon.  This is a must.  For this test run, I took four half-slices of bacon and seasoned them liberally with Plowboys Yardbird Rub.  After the rub, I liberally applied brown sugar on top of the BBQ rub.  The bacon slices then went onto a grill sheet on the grill over slightly indirect heat using Kingsford Competition Briquettes and a few small apple wood chunks (the burgers were cooking over direct heat).  After about 30 minutes, I pulled the bacon slices off and let them rest.  I probably could have let them rest longer, but why would I want to do something like that?  :P

I took my first bite, and it was like an orgasm of flavors just went off in my mouth!  I’m officially hooked.  There are three main elements that make this great:

  1. It’s sweet.
  2. It’s salty.
  3. It’s BACON!!!

The sweetness from the brown sugar, the saltiness from the bacon and the rub, and the smoke all combine together to form a wonderful chorus of flavors in your mouth.  I varied from the recipe that DivaQ posted in a couple of ways:

  • My bacon was on the grill for about 30 minutes as opposed to 2 hours.  This was due to the bacon being a little closer to the heat source as well as my lack of patience.
  • I let my pig candy rest for about 5 minutes or so.  It probably could have stood to rest a little bit longer to completely firm up.

All in all, I’ve found a winner!  The next time that I whip up a batch of pig candy, I will definitely devote more time to letting the bacon smoke and letting the bacon rest to firm up.  Plus, there will be pictures!

Until next time…

Review: Mac’s Speed Shop — Charlotte, NC

I often lament the lack of good quality BBQ joints here in the Charlotte, NC metro area.  It really is a shame that in a city the size of Charlotte, the closest good BBQ joint is a 45-60 minute drive away.  There were a couple of joints close to my previous employer that were okay, but they were nothing spectacular.

So I did another search for BBQ joints close to my current employer, and lo and behold I came across Mac’s Speed Shop.  They have three locations in the Charlotte metro area, so I went to their South Blvd. location (since it was an approximately 10 minute drive from work).

As I am on my way inside, I immediately noted something that gave me a promise of hope: the smoky smell of meat cooking on a fire.  I walked in and was seated less than 5 minutes after arriving, even with the large lunch crowd they had.

(WARNING: I forgot my digital camera’s memory card, so all pictures are courtesy of my LG Ally phone)

Lunch Crowd at Mac's Speed Shop

The Lunch Crowd at Mac's Speed Shop from My Seat

After browsing the menu for a few minutes, I decided to go with an appetizer and a main course.  For the appetizer, I could not say no to the Tabasco fried pickles.

Tabasco fried pickles at Mac's

Tabasco fried pickles at Mac's Speed Shop

The texture of the pickles indicated that the batter was a cornmeal batter.  Also, the pickles were probably soaked in Tabasco for some period of time prior to being battered and fried.  There was not an overwhelming taste of Tabasco in these pickles.  I enjoyed eating them, although they were not quite as good as the fried pickles at the Penguin.

I had trouble deciding on a main course, so I decided to go with their combo platter.  The combo consists of four different meats to choose from (out of five) and two sides.  Being the heart-healthy, health-conscious person that I am, I ordered the pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, and chicken for my meats.  For my two sides, I chose macaroni & cheese and baked beans.  I was thinking that there would be a little bit of each on my plate… and then my plate arrived.

Combo Plate at Mac's Speedshop

Combo Plate at Mac's Speed Shop

Before I get into the specifics of the plate, I had two initial thoughts.

  1. That’s a LOT of meat!
  2. Only one piece of brisket?  Disappointing.

Immediately I dive in to the brisket.  The brisket was smoked for about 12 hours and then finished off on a grill with their red BBQ sauce (KC-style).  The texture of the brisket was outstanding, and I did enjoy seeing the grill marks on the meat.  However, I was hoping for a little stronger smoke flavor.  All in all, I was pleased.

Next came the ribs.  The ribs were spare ribs trimmed down to a St. Louis cut, dry rubbed, and smoked.  They were served with the red BBQ sauce glazed on top.  I was pleased with the brisket, but I was AMAZED with the ribs!  Finally — a BBQ joint in Charlotte where I can actually taste the smoke in ribs!  The texture was just right: the ribs did not fall off the bone.  The bite marks left in the ribs were just right.  The ribs were a winner here!

And then comes that big hunk of chicken leg quarter.  The chicken was served naked (no sauce), which was just fine in my opinion.  The meat was very moist, tender, and juicy.  The skin didn’t have as much flavor as I would have liked it to have.  There was a faint smoke taste that complemented the meat very well.  Again — another winner here.

Then I finally made it to the pulled pork.  Out of the four meats on my plate, this was the one that impressed me the least.  While there was good flavor with the pork, by itself the meat was a bit on the dry side.  I had a few bites with both their vinegar-based sauce and their “Carolina style” sauce, and this greatly improved the dryness of the meat.  The pork was pulled and not chopped.

Wow… all of that writing, and I didn’t even talk about the sides.  The mac and cheese was very rich and creamy, and the baked beans had a very nice bold flavor.  Mac’s Speed Shop makes its claim as the best BBQ in Charlotte.  After dining there, I would find that claim hard to argue.

Website: http://www.macspeedshop.com/

Mac's Speed Shop BBQ on Urbanspoon

Poll: What’s Cooking on Your Outdoor Cooker?

Here’s some food for thought…  what do you like to cook the most on your grill or smoker?  Poll is below.  Discuss amongst yourselves.