Monthly Archives: March 2011

NC BBQ Tweet-Up: Big Wayner meets C-Dubs BBQ

I have met some really wonderful people in the world of BBQ and grilling thanks to the power of Facebook and Twitter!  I know I keep saying this, but BBQ and grilling people are some of the most genuine and wonderful people to be around.  Two of these people are Charles and Allegra Wilson of C-Dub’s BBQ Rub.

C-Dub’s BBQ Rub is the brainchild of Charles and Allegra.  The blending of cultures (Charles is from North Carolina, Allegra is from British Columbia) has helped C-Dub’s in creating outstanding flavors with their line of BBQ rubs and seasonings.  Charles and Allegra were in the Charlotte area for the week visiting family, so they were gracious enough to meet up with me for lunch today!

C-Dub and Big Wayner

C-Dub and Big Wayner

We met today for some Eastern Carolina style barbecue at Bill Spoon’s Barbecue in Charlotte.  I had the best time with Charles and Allegra.  They were very personable and friendly.  We shared many good laughs and stories as well as some excellent barbecue and dessert.  I had such a great time, in fact, that I lost track of time and realized after about an hour and a half that I had to go back to work.  Time flies when you’re having fun, after all.  Charles and Allegra were also gracious enough to give me a really sweet BBQ apron as well as some rubs that I will be using at the first opportunity.  Now I can “Get Naked” every time I fire up the smoker!

I was extremely glad to meet Charles and Allegra today.  They were an absolute testament to how BBQ and grilling people are genuine and wonderful!  I cannot wait until we get the chance to meet up again.

C-Dub and Big Wayner (picture courtesy of C-Dubs BBQ Rub)

C-Dub and Big Wayner (picture courtesy of C-Dubs BBQ Rub and Allegra's cell phone)

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This Week’s “Best Of”

After a long hiatus, the “Best Of” has made its return.  I know you all missed it terribly (*grin*).  So without a further ado, here’s this week’s “Best Of”:

  • The Mad Scientist and Wizard of Sauce is at it again!  Tom Porter of Big Butz BBQ gets in touch with his entomological side in creating the Fattipillar.
  • Canadian BBQ blogger Wilfred Reinke tells us about his experience of cooking a pork shoulder in his Masterbuilt smoker.  Oh yeah, he got to play with power tools too.
  • If you wondered if your favorite BBQ joint was on Twitter, chances are good that Kevin Kelly of Kevin’s BBQ Joints has already found ’em.  Click here to see the definitive list.
  • Been unsure about how to spatchcock a chicken?  I was too, until Larry Gaian published a great how-to article on splitting that bird.

And for the dose of funny, here is a commercial outlining when it’s a good time to get a new bed…

 

Review: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue — Charlotte, NC

For a city the size of Charlotte, there’s not much there in the way of outstanding barbecue. There are several adequate places, and there are even a couple that are good. But in the years that I’ve lived here, the only place that I have tried that I would call excellent is Mac’s Speed Shop.  However, I kept hearing about Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, so I decided to give it a shot one day for lunch.

Bill Spoon's Barbecue

Bill Spoon's Barbecue

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue is located on South Blvd. in Charlotte, NC.  They pride themselves on serving Eastern Carolina style barbecue by cooking the whole hog.  For those of you unfamiliar with the barbecue culture in North Carolina, Eastern Carolina style barbecue consists of cooking the entire hog, finely chopping the meat from the various parts of the pig, and serving it all together. The sauce is generally a very thin vinegar-based sauce.

I walk in and get seated and immediately feel at home.  The atmosphere was a very down-home comfortable atmosphere.  The tables all had yellow checkered tablecloths, and the wood paneling made me feel a bit nostalgic.

Covert shot of dining room

Covert shot of dining room

Bill Spoon’s prides itself on serving the whole hog, so I decided to order the small barbecue plate with beans as my side.  The waitress was extremely friendly.  Less than five minutes later, out comes my plate of food!

Small barbecue plate with beans

Small barbecue plate with beans

The star of this plate is the pork.  It was chopped very fine, but the texture was not mushy at all.  I could see that some sort of sauce was applied to it, but the pork was not drowned in the sauce.  It had a very nice flavor.  I added some of the Eastern Carolina style sauce to the pork, and it added a nice bite with some kick.

Pork closeup

Pork closeup -- sorry about the fuzzy picture

I forgot to mention the hush puppies…  with every barbecue dinner, they have bottomless hush puppies!  WOOHOO!!  The hush puppies were extremely fresh — nice and crunchy on the outside, and very moist on the inside.  The only drawback was that they were just a little bit on the salty side.

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

The slaw was something different that I had not experienced since starting my barbecue adventures — it was a mustard-based slaw.  I would normally not eat a mustard-based slaw, but it complemented the barbecue quite well.  Thus, it did exactly what it was supposed to do.  The beans, quite frankly, were bland and mostly forgettable.  But I was hungry, and I ate them anyway.

Happy barbecue plate

Happy barbecue plate

I also read somewhere that they had excellent banana pudding, so I just had to try it out when I saw it available on today’s menu.  When it came out, it was a little smaller portion than I had expected.  However, the taste of the banana pudding was very nice.  There were layers upon layers upon layers of wafers in the pudding, giving the pudding that nice crunch in addition to the pudding taste.  The pudding component was very fresh, although I kept wondering if I tasted just a faint hint of lemon in the pudding.

Banana pudding

Banana pudding

All in all, I enjoyed eating at Bill Spoon’s.  I’m not sure it quite surpasses Mac’s Speed Shop in the excellence factor, I have no qualms whatsoever in putting it in a solid 2nd place when it comes to the best barbecue in Charlotte.

Bill Spoon's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Did Someone Say Ribs?

Let me start this off by saying…  my in-laws rock!  While I had to go in to the office to work this past Saturday, they, along with my wife, worked out in our yard and got it in decent shape.  For all the hard work that they did, I had to pay them back somehow.  And how does someone with a passion for BBQ pay back a favor?  Why, with BBQ, of course!  And luckily for me, the requested meat was ribs!

Now the big question…  baby backs or spares?  After much deliberation, spares won out.  This entailed a trip to my local Sam’s Club and purchasing a three-pack of spare ribs.  I trimmed the ribs down to a St. Louis style cut and then seasoned them three different ways.

The rib racks

The rib racks

I’ll describe the rack preparations starting at the top and rotating clockwise.  I applied lemon juice to the first rack and sprinkled liberal amounts of Willie’s Hog Dust to the rack .  By the way, Willie’s Hog Dust works great on pork butt.  The second rack (the one oriented vertically) was slathered in Uncle Kenny’s Spicy BBQ Sauce and covered liberally with Spicy #13 Rub from Bandiola Spice Company.  This rack was thus dubbed the “Hot Rack”.  The final rack was slathered in Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce and rubbed with Plowboy’s Yard Bird Rub.

The racks were put in the smoker (along with the trimmings from the spare ribs… lesson here: leave no meat behind) to cook at 250 degrees Fahrenheit using Kingsford competition briquettes and oak wood.  After about four hours, the ribs were done.  And they sure looked good!

Ribs are done!

Ribs are done!

Since I used sauces in the rib preparation, I decided to pass on glazing the ribs before pulling them out of the smoker.  As you can see, there is a nice rich deep red color to the ribs.  It was perfectly done, with nice bite marks being left with each bite.  Obviously everyone else agreed, even my wife (who is adamantly opposed to eating meat with bones in it)…

The survivors...

The survivors...

Now I confess I’m a bit of a heat lover.  I think that most every food can benefit from a bit of spice and heat.  While I was pleased with how all the racks turned out, I was especially pleased with the results from my Hot Rack.  The combination of  Bandiola Spice Company’s Spicy #13 Rub and Uncle Kenny’s Spicy BBQ Sauce gave the ribs a sneaky back heat that I really enjoyed!

Hope this inspires you to get out and fire up the cooker this coming weekend and cook those ribs that you’ve been meaning to cook for so long now!

Willie’s Hog Dust and Pork Butt: A Beautiful Pair

With the beautiful weather that arrived here in the Carolinas last week, how could I not say no to firing up the smoker?  There was a pork butt in the freezer calling my name.  This was the perfect opportunity to try out Willie’s Hog Dust.  Willie was gracious enough to send me bottles of his original, spicy, and sweet blend rubs.  I decided to go with the original blend this time around.

Willie's Hog Dust -- Original Blend

Willie's Hog Dust -- Original Blend

Willie’s Hog Dust is made using no MSG, gluten, or preservatives.  Only all-natural ingredients are used, and the rubs are low in sodium (for all of you health-conscious people).  The rubs are all-purpose and can be used on pork, chicken, beef… even popcorn!

Naked Observations

A Dusting of Hog Dust

A Dusting of Hog Dust

It’s hard to see in this picture (mainly because I had only a yellow plate to use), but the rub had a nice orange color to it.  The rub also had a nice mixture of dark and light bits in there from the other various spices used.  I took a small sample, and it had a very nice flavor to it.  Willie’s Hog Dust definitely fits the “low sodium” billing without sacrificing flavor.

As I mentioned earlier, pork butt was the “meat du jour”.  I took the piece of meat (which was a little over 5 1/2 lb), slathered it with canola oil, and liberally applied the dust to it.  It gave the butt the nice golden color I was looking for.

Pork butt, meet hog dust...

Pork butt, meet hog dust...

And off to the smoker it goes!  I cooked it using Kingsford competition briquettes and oak wood, keeping the temperature between 250 and 275 degrees.

Butt in the smoker

Butt in the smoker

With the temperature between 250 and 275 degrees, the butt was done in about 8 hours.  And wow, was it beautiful!

Finished butt

Finished butt

Pulled butt

Pulled butt

The pork looked beautiful, and it tasted even better!  The pork pulled with no problems at all, and there was a perfect balance of smoke, pork, and rub flavor!  I tried to get a picture of the bark, but I’m afraid it was a bit fuzzy.  I’ll post it anyway.  Willie’s Hog Dust gave my pork butt a beautiful bark that was nice and crispy and flavorful!

Pork butt bark, courtesy of Willie's Hog Dust

Pork butt bark, courtesy of Willie's Hog Dust

I would highly purchasing Willie’s Hog Dust.  If it works on other meat as well as it does on pork, it’s absolute magic!!  Willie’s Hog Dust is available for purchase at http://www.williesrubbins.com/.

BBQ Giveaway — Black’s Barbecue

My good friend Kevin Kelly of Kevin’s BBQ Joints is doing another giveaway.  Not too long ago he partnered with Southern Soul BBQ for a really sweet contest, and now he has teamed up with Black’s Barbecue.

Black’s Barbecue is located in Lockhart, TX.  It is Texas’ oldest major barbecue restaurant continuously owned by the same family.  In business since 1932, Black’s Barbecue has satisfied customers with Texas smoked meats, homemade sausage, and barbecue sauces.  It’s one of the few places I can think of (okay, the ONLY place I can think of) that says it’s open eight days a week.  *grin*

Anyway…  you need to check out details on this killer contest here.  Tell Kevin that Big Wayner sent ya!

Review: Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny’s BBQ

Tonight was a night of unexpected opportunities. My wife had planned on cooking dinner tonight. However, I was unable to get one of the main ingredients for the planned meal, so those grand plans fell through. She finally suggested that I do the Hot-n-Nasty Burgers that I did earlier this week. Turns out this was the perfect opportunity to try out the Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny’s BBQ!

Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny's BBQ

Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny's BBQ

Uncle Kenny’s BBQ is based in the Orlando, FL area.  Started by college friends Mike Smith and Kenny Nadeau (the namesake for Uncle Kenny’s BBQ) in 2004, Uncle Kenny’s BBQ caters private events and festivals as well as participates in competitions sanctioned by the Florida Barbecue Association and the Kansas City Barbecue Society.  Kenny and Mike cite their Missouri roots in the flavors that they impart into their BBQ.

A few weeks ago, Kenny reached out to me and asked if I would like to try out his sauces.  We agreed that I would do reviews of his sauces, and about a week later I received a package containing a bottle of each of the sauces — Original, Mustard, and Spicy.  I love food that has a kick to it, so I decided tonight was the night for the Spicy BBQ Sauce.

Naked Observations

With all new sauces and rubs that I try, I always take a sample of it as it stands prior to being used on any food.  I spooned some of the sauce out on to a plate to get a good look at it.

Uncle Kenny's Spicy BBQ Sauce Appearance

Uncle Kenny's Spicy BBQ Sauce Appearance

The sauce is a thick sauce with a tomato and molasses base, which is classic of Kansas City styled sauces.  It has a dark red color with specks of black pepper evenly distributed throughout.

I took a brief smell of the sauce and definitely obtained the molasses and black pepper flavors.  It was not an overly sugary or sweet smell.  Then I took a taste.  I immediately noticed the sweetness from the molasses followed by the spiciness from the black pepper.  As the black pepper flavors hit my palate, the back heat started to come into play.  It was definitely noticeable, yet the heat did not overpower the sauce or throw off the balance of the flavors.  I was very pleased and looking forward to trying it with my meal.

Food Observations

As I mentioned earlier, tonight’s meal ended up being burgers.  I’m not sure if others are like this, but my wife and I enjoy burgers that are basted with BBQ sauce 5-10 minutes prior to coming off the grill.  So tonight’s burgers got basted with the spicy BBQ sauce twice — once 10 minutes prior to being pulled off the grill, and once 5 minutes prior.  The burgers had a nice dark red color from the sauce, and the sauce did not overpower the burgers.  Rather, it worked in harmony with the other flavors in the burger.  I would have taken pictures, but quite frankly… my wife and I were hungry and there was no time!  Based on the way the sauce worked with the burgers, I have a good hunch that it’d work quite nicely with a rack of ribs.

In conclusion… if you like your sauces with some spice and kick, then you will love the Spicy BBQ Sauce from Uncle Kenny’s BBQ.  The sauces are all available for purchase online, and there are a few brick-and-mortar retailers where they are available as well.

Website for Uncle Kenny’s BBQ: http://www.unclekennysbbq.com.

UPDATE:

I had some requests for burger porn.  Luckily, I had some leftover burgers from last night.  I reheated them and gave them another dosage of the spicy Uncle Kenny’s BBQ Sauce.  So here you go!

Naked shot!

Naked shot!

All dressed up!

All dressed up!

Inside goodness!

Inside goodness!

Makin’ Burgers with the Burger Pocket Press

My apologies for having been away for a while.  Real life tends to do that every now and then.  Since I actually got home from work tonight at a semi-reasonable hour (read: not after 11pm), I decided to fire up the grill for some burgers.  However, I did not intend to grill just any old plain burgers.  Oh no…  tonight was time to break out the Burger Pocket Press!

Burger Pocket Press Box

Burger Pocket Press Box

The Burger Pocket Press was invented by Michael Ajakie, a south Florida-based business owner, to solve the problem of inconsistent and fragile stuffed burgers.  It advertises the ability to create new burger recipes by sealing toppings on the inside in order to maximize flavor.

Burger Pocket Press Box Contents

Burger Pocket Press Box Contents

The Burger Pocket Press consists of four pieces — the bowl, the ring, the flat press, and the pocket press (all of which are dishwasher-safe).  Also included is a pamphlet that contains instructions for using the press along with a couple of recipes.  More recipes are available on the Burger Pocket Press website.

After washing the parts, it’s time to make some burgers!  I decided on a jalapeño cheddar burger using bacon cheddar cheese.  The directions to form a stuffed burger using the Burger Pocket Press are as follows:

  • Form the cap of the burger.
  • Form the burger pocket.
  • Add toppings to the burger pocket.
  • Seal the pocket.

I purchased 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef for this experiment.  Let’s face it…  using lean ground beef for a burger is just blasphemous!  I made two 1/2 lb burgers tonight — one for me, and one for my wife.  Forming the cap was as simple as taking about 2  – 3 ounces of ground beef, placing it into the ring, and pressing it flat using the flat press.  To form the pocket, I took the remaining 5 – 6 ounces of ground beef allotted, placed it in the bowl, and pressed it using the pocket press.

Jalapeño and Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger in the Making

Jalapeño and Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger in the Making

One of the key points in the provided instructions is that you do not need to overstuff your burger.  Heeding that warning, I was a little conservative in the amount of goodies I put inside the pocket.  After I had put what I thought was a sufficient amount of stuff inside the pocket, I sealed off the top of the pocket with the patty I previously formed.  The seal was fairly well formed.  However, I did do some manual forming of the burger to ensure the seal was complete.  Doing so was not a big deal at all.  You can see the results below.

First burger is done!

First burger is done!

Looking good so far?  I thought so too.  For burger #2, I decided to go a little more liberal with the amount of stuffing.  As a result, the seal was not quite as complete, leaving a little bit of cheese exposed.

Both Burgers ready to go!

Both Burgers ready to go!

And off to the grill!

Burgers on the Grill

Burgers on the Grill

Burger Close-up Goodness!

Burger Close-up Goodness!

After approximately fifteen minutes over direct heat, I moved the burgers to indirect heat and basted the burgers with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce.  After another 10-15 minutes on the grill (these were big burgers, after all), I pulled them off.

Finished Products

Finished Products

In the picture above, the burger on the left was the one I overstuffed, while the burger on the right was the more conservatively-stuffed burger.  You can see that the seal on the left was not as thorough as the one on the right, but there was still some instance of cheesy gooey-ness from both burgers.  When I saw what it looked like on the bun, I just had to dub it the “Hot-n-Nasty!”

Hot-n-Nasty Close-Up

Hot-n-Nasty Close-Up

It didn’t quite seal like I had hoped, but I’m attributing that to using too much filler.  But wow, it was tasty!  If I had to pick one thing that I wish the Burger Pocket Press did a little bit better, I would say that a little deeper pocket press would be nice.  Overall, though, I was very pleased with the product.

If you are interested in purchasing the Burger Pocket Press, you can do so by calling 888-533-3318 or visiting http://www.burgerpocketpress.com.  If you are interested, you can also find Burger Pocket Press on Facebook and Twitter.

(Full Disclosure: I was sent the Burger Pocket Press in exchange for a review.)

Review: Bridges Barbecue Lodge — Shelby, NC

North Carolina likes to lay a claim as the birthplace of barbecue.  While cities like Kansas City may disagree, there is a lot of history when it comes to barbecue in North Carolina.  In fact, books have been written solely devoted to barbecue in NC.  Today, I had the opportunity to try one of the cornerstones of NC barbecue when I had lunch today at Bridges Barbecue Lodge.

Bridges Barbecue Lodge signage

Bridges Barbecue Lodge signage

Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Bridges Barbecue Lodge

This joint, listed on the NC Barbecue Society’s Historic Barbecue Trail, is located right off of Highway 74 in Shelby, NC.  In 1946, Red Bridges (the restaurant’s namesake) opened up his first barbecue joint.  Two years later, Red (along with his wife) opened up another barbecue restaurant in uptown Shelby called Bridges Barbecue.  Bridges Barbecue moved to its current location in 1953 and has been operating there ever since.

There was not a big crowd as I arrived at 11:30 this morning, so I knew I picked a good time to arrive.  I walk into the restaurant and I immediately feel at home!  The decor of the restaurant immediately emanates a feeling of comfort and warmth.  I immediately find a table and sit down.

Restaurant Interior from My Seat

Restaurant Interior from My Seat

After a few minutes, I decided on their large BBQ tray.  The BBQ tray consists of pork (sliced, chopped, or coarse chopped), red slaw, and all the hush puppies that you can eat.  I requested my pork to be coarsely chopped with all the “brown” (outside bark) they could stand to give me.  A few minutes after ordering, out comes my food:

Large BBQ Tray at Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Large BBQ Tray at Bridges Barbecue Lodge

The Hush Puppies

The Hush Puppies

Bridges Sauce

Bridges Sauce

The texture of the pork was more akin to pulled pork than a coarse chop, which was fine to me.  And as you can see, they were generous with the “brown”.  The tray was about the size of a 3″x5″ postcard, filled to overflowing with food.  One bite into the pork, and my mouth jumped for joy!  The outside bark was not tough to chew at all, but very crispy and full of flavor.  The inside pieces of pork were very moist.  The slaw was very tangy and peppery — a perfect complement to the pork.

The basket of hush puppies did not contain very many, but I was not concerned because the nice lady who took care of me said I could have as many hush puppies as I wanted.  They did not have a uniform shape, but that was okay by me.  The taste of them is what matters, and they were tasty!  Very crisp on the outside and not soggy at all on the inside.

The sauce reminded me of the dip that I had at Lexington BBQ #1.  However, this sauce was thicker and more tomato-ey.  It was sweet and tangy.  To be honest, it was probably my least favorite part of the meal.  However, I didn’t need very much of it.  The pork easily stood on its own.

As a nice bonus, I was able to get a sneak peek at the pits.  Bridges Barbecue Lodge actually has two different cooking areas.  Their main cooking area for the meat consists of an Old Hickory smoker (where they primarily cook chicken) and an old brick BBQ pit (where the shoulder magic happens).  Bridges cooks with hickory and oak wood, and they apply no seasonings of any sort to the shoulders prior to going on the cooker.  They also have a super-sized smokehouse for when they are cooking for upwards of 10,000 people.

Chicken Cooking in the Old Hickory Pit

Chicken Cooking in the Old Hickory Pit

Shoulders in the Warming Box

Shoulders in the Warming Box

Shoulders in the Cooker

Shoulders in the Cooker

Oh yeah… and they have a little bit of wood stockpiled as well.

The Woodpile -- That's a lot of wood!

The Woodpile -- That's a lot of wood!

After dining there, I can definitely see why Bridges Barbecue Lodge is on the NC BBQ Society’s Historical BBQ Trail.  Their reputation is well-earned as a legend in North Carolina BBQ.  Any visitors to the Charlotte area (yes, I’m talking to you, President Obama) would do well to make the 45 minute trip from Charlotte to Shelby and experience Bridges Barbecue Lodge.