Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gourmet Hamburgers are Hot this Year and We Had "We Got Burgers" Tonight

I've been working on a magazine article about grilling and have been talking to experts about trends coming up and several mentioned that gourmet burgers are coming of age. This was a rather a surprise as I've not seen any at Food Lion. Then again, when I was growing up, I always said that we ran about 5 years behind on cool stuff they featured in Cosmo. The gap has closed a little with the Internet - thank goodness, but I don't think this town is going to make the cover of "Hot and Trendy" any time soon.

Ironically, I'd been talking fancy burgers with Frank on Twitter (@grilliantideas), and he sent out some of his gourmet burgers to get my spin on them. This is risky, because I'm pretty vocal about what I don't like but also give the thumbs up on good products.

Generally I hand pat my hamburgers, and I'm the default burger maker in the family after a family reunion with some pre-made patties which were rather dreadful. The Allison side of the family is not very big, so I can pump out enough homemade burgers for our crowd, but that would get kind of tricky with more than 15 or 20 people.

Frank's We Got Burgers are definately not the local boxed burgers.

For starters, these gourmet burgers are huge as you can see in the photo above. They are a half pound each and 5 inches across plus thick. There's not much shrinkage either. The guys can scarf down this much meat at once, but I can only eat half. I'd say about 1/3 pound would be as much as I could go on a burger, and Frank said he might think about smaller burgers.

Then, these burgers are souped up with flavors. Tonight we had the chili cheddar burgers. I'd saved them for when my college son was in for surgery on his ACL. These were right up his alley, but the younger son who likes his food pretty simple and never spicy (although I'd not call these really spicy even with chili sauce/spice) liked the bacon and cheese burgers Frank sent better. My top pick are the pineapple burgers with chunks of pineapple in with the meat. They are all yummy though.

Frank is out in California, and I'm in North Carolina, so that means shipping is high on gourmet burgers. They have to be packed well with dry ice packs and sent speedy. He nailed all that, and the burgers arrived in perfect condition and still frozen solid.

I've bought meat from a number of online companies, and I'm thinking that it might be good to have distribution centers in various states for the quality products. On the flip side, that might just get to be mass production with the same dull burgers and meats at the grocery store. So, I'll just be thankful that I do have options and can have smoked ham, grain fed beef, and We Got Burgers gourmet burgers in several great flavors.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pulling Pork Made Easy with Bear Paws

I finally found an easy way to pull pork. I was looking online and saw Bear Paws. Really simple looking product, but I thought they would be worth a shot, so I bought a set. After all, pulling pork shoulder or butt can be a pain in the . . . well . . . you know.

For the record, I'm from North Carolina barbecue country where we smoke pork shoulders or whole hog low and slow and then CHOP it. I often hear people talk about our NC pulled pork, but really it's chopped pork.

I can chop pork, but it takes a lot of space, time, and sharp knives. Much more labor intensive than pulling, although pulling has been a pretty big job previously too - until I got the Bear Paws.

Bear Paws honestly look too simple to be effective. They are just heavy duty plastic with hand holes and then claw type ends (and I am forever calling them Bear Claws instead of Bear Paws). The claws aren't exactly sharp although they are pointed. The Bear Paws do, however, work great.

Here is Jimmy pulling the barbecue pork shoulder my Mom had for Christmas. She always cuts small amounts at a time, and it takes some time and she has to keep stopping her meal to cut a little more pork to go on the buns. So, she was real impressed with the Bear Claws and how quick and easy the whole shoulder was ready.

I know what I am putting on her birthday or Christmas list for next year. Shhhhh! Let's keep that a secret.

Here is the BBQ shoulder pulled with the Bear Claws. The pork can be pulled more for smaller pieces, but we liked it kind of chunky. And, anyone who wanted the pork shoulder pulled finer could grab the Bear Claws and do a little more pulling. It really took very little muscle to do the pulling, so these work well for various ages and strengths.

Here's the North Carolina pork sandwich on my dinner plate. To be more traditional, I'd have North Carolina red barbecue slaw on there, but I'm not a huge slaw fan so usually pass on the slaw. Most people do like the barbecue slaw, since it does add a nice contrast on flavors and textures. I'd say to give it a try. The slaw is good on there - just not my thing.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Barbecue Master Top BBQ Blogger - Thanks to Guide to Culinary Schools and my Great BBQ Buddies

Whew. I am smoked under working on a big grilling and barbecue magazine article, but I did wake up enough to notice that Guide to Culinary Schools listed me as a top 50 barbecue blogger. Actually they listed me in the top five and even put me first on the list. Well, WOOT! And, thanks Guide to Culinary Schools. That is a real honor with so many great barbecue blogs online.

Although I do some professional writing on the side, my grilling spaces have been my hobby and what I do for fun. When people ask me the secret to success in blogging, I say to pick something you have a passion for and give it all you've got. Yes. People do notice that.

This honor goes out to all the wonderful folks who have been reading my grilling and barbecue stories, recipes, reviews, and news all these years. Thanks for dropping by, for the comments, and for the emails.

Check out the full top barbecue blog list. All 50 of the blogs picked are wonderful. I know a bunch of the bloggers listed through twitter where you can find me at @cyndiallison and other places online like Facebook. I won't start calling names, because I will leave someone out (which is a bad thing you know). Plus, the whole list is top notch. Just click around and have fun.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Really Great Hamburgers without All the Work - Grilliant Ideas Burgers

Tonight the family had gourmet burgers from the Burger Man, my friend GrilliantIdeas at Twitter. He is one of my grilling and barbecue buddies. We talk a little junk, and he always makes me laugh.

He's been bragging on his flavored burgers. No. He is not a modest guy. Haha. You can tell him I said that.

So, Frank hooked me up with some of his We Got Burgers in various flavors. He just wanted to see what I thought and didn't even make me promise to wear one of those skimpy Burger Girl outfits or anything (-: Yeah. Seriously, all I have to do is tell him what I think (and he knows I'm good about that), so I thought I'd tell ya'll too.

This was a good time for grilled burgers, and I designated it TGIB or Thank God It's Burgers (and not turkey again) with it the weekend after Thanksgiving. Gotta love the turkey, but not for every meal. So, burgers were just the ticket and on the Weber charcoal Kettle for extra measure.

Here you will see Bacon and Cheddar burgers and also Pineapple and Teriyaki. And, yes, they do look big. They are a half pound each. I'll try some other flavors later and check back in, but a half pound is really more than I can scarf down in one sitting. Yep. I'm a lightweight. That's OK. I saved the other half for lunch tomorrow.

Here's the crowd. As you can see, we are guy heavy. They can definitely throw down with thick and juicy 1/2 pound burgers especially good ones.

My two sons called dibs on the bacon and cheddar burgers. This is a small town, and that's getting adventuresome for them. So, if you have a conservative crowd, then you might want to go that way. I got a bite of Caleb's bacon cheddar burger, and it was really fabulous.

I had the We Got Burgers pineapple teriyaki. I had a hamburger in Disney World back in my teens with pineapple on top and thought that rocked, so I knew I'd like the pineapple in there. Yep. Excellent. That worked for me, but I loved that bacon cheddar too.

If you have had pre-made burgers at the grocery store, then you may have noticed that they are not very good usually. Sort of like the Happy Meal burger patties - no flavor at all. This is a whole different ball game here with We Got Burgers. Normally, I'd only serve my own hand patted grilled hamburgers, but that Grilliant has got it going. If you want tasty burgers and convenient, you can just order now and have ones that taste great plus have some very cool flavor options.

One thing for sure . . . this was an easy meal after two mega-time-in-the-kitchen meals. It was realy great to kick back and just enjoy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grilled Shrimp in a Grill Wok - Super Easy Grilling Recipe

We had grilled shrimp again tonight, and YES we had shrimp wok grilled last week as well. I've had a sinus and double ear infections, and frankly the guys are lucky they are getting food at all around here. I feel dreadful.

Shrimp in the grill wok is super simple though and easier than going and picking up something to eat. No. We do not have delivery out here in the country. Sigh that.

I did decide to fancy things up a bit with our grilled shrimp, since this is two weeks in a row. So, I used Melanie Yunk's Big Acres Teriyaki & Ginger marinade on this batch of vegetables and shrimp.

Melanie's marinade gave the grilled shrimp and veggies a richer and fuller flavor without adding any extra work on my end. Her Big Acres gourmet marinades and sauces are top notch, and I recommend them and also note that her collection that you see above is a real cool gift for friends or family who are foodies or ones who just don't know what they are missing.

How to Grill Shrimp in a Grill Wok

1. First I fire up the grill. This can be a charcoal, gas or electric grill. I used a gas grill tonight. The temperature should be fairly hot - around 375 degrees F or close.

2. I spray the grill wok with non-stick spray to make clean up easier. Tonight, I used Weber's grill non-stick spray. I think it's new. I've not seen it until lately here, and it works great. Then I let the grill wok heat a bit.

3. I have my vegetables in marinade. In this case, it was Melanie's Gourmet Teriyaki and Ginger. I also use Kraft Zesty Italian or I use olive oil and add my own seasonings.

4. I put my vegetables in the grill wok for about 5 minutes to give them a little head start, unless my shrimp are large. Mostly, around here, the shrimp sold are medium.

5. Once the vegetables grill for a few minutes, I add the shrimp to the grill wok.

6. I stir now and then and watch the color. My grilled shrimp took about 10 minutes, but that can vary on the heat and size of the shrimp. The main thing is to get the shrimp the pretty orange cooked color. That means they are done. And, if you keep cooking them, they get rubbery. Just watch the color. That's the key. When they look done, they are done.

Well, that was my quick and easy grilled dinner tonight. It took 15 minutes total on the grilling (not including the heating times). We ate the food like a Low Country Boil - just picked up shrimp and veggies (green peppers and mushrooms) and had lots of paper towels. This same meal can be served over a rice bed for a more upscale meal, but I did not feel like doing rice tonight.

I did boil some corn on the cob and made some canned biscuits to go with our wok grilled shrimp. Again - going easy on the dinner when not feeling great.

There were sure no complaints. The guys grabbed plates of the wok grilled shrimp and vegetables and watched the ballgame on TV. They did the dishes too, so I call this a really good dinner night and sure super easy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Barbecue Grilled Wok Shrimp with Vegetables

I was not planning on grilling shrimp tonight, but when I stopped by Harris Teeter, they had a sale on shrimp. I could not resist. I walked a few isles and then there I was at the seafood counter buying shrimp to grill - of course.

Sometimes I bacon wrap and kabob grilled shrimp, but after a long week at work, I thought I'd go with vegetables and shrimp in the grill wok. Really now, it does not get much easier.

I did marinate the shrimp and vegetables separate, because these were medium shrimp - about 2 inches heads off. So, I knew the veggies would need a little more grill time.

For both the shrimp and the vegetables (green peppers and mushrooms), I used the olive oil my son brought back from Europe on his summer trip. On the shrimp, I used Garlic Gold nuggets for flavor. On the veggies, I went with Cajun Cowboy grilling seasoning. You could, of course, do many combinations or use the same marinade on all the foods.

With the smaller shrimp, I let the whole mini mushrooms and green peppers grill a bit - around 5 minutes. Then I added the shrimp. At this size, they'd go around 5 minutes. But, the lid would not quite fit over the grill wok with the City Grill tailgater. Close. But no cigar, so it ran more around 10 minutes. The key is to have the shrimp the pretty orange color you see - no grey which means they are not done.

Don't over cook seafood though, or it's tough and rubbery and just not good. Watch close. Seafood grills real fast. Don't get caught up in the ballgame and forget, or you have a pretty gross dinner to serve.

Here you can see what the grilled shrimp look like when they are ready. I did have the barbecue grill wok filled pretty full, so I did stir a couple of times. You can also use grill gloves and just shake the grill wok.

When I took the grill wok off, I put it on a cookie sheet. Wok grilled meals can be a little drippy. I carried the wok inside on the cookie sheet and then poured the grilled foods into my bowl here which I got in Greece when I lived there.

Everyone went wild for the grilled shrimp meal tonight, although my son still is not going to go for the green peppers. That's OK. More for me.

I heated my grilled meal up with @SweetLifeSauce (Twitter name there) or just visit the Sweet Life Sauce page online where they have a lot of cool barbecue and kitchen flavor products. They sent me some samples to see what I thought.

I did not add BooDream's Cajun Rocket Fuel hot sauce to the marinade, because my younger son does not like hot foods. Also, I was not sure just how hot this sauce might be. I take it easy the first time, so I do not end up with food too hot for the family to eat (though all the rest of us are hot food fans).

The Cajun Rocket Fuel went on the side of my plate, and I dipped my grilled shrimp and veggies. Yes. This is hot sauce. It's around the heat level of Texas Pete but not as big on the bitter kick. I found it quite hot but pleasant. But, I would not splash it on liberally. It is, after all, called Rocket Fuel. Yaroom! I say thumbs up, but if you do not like heat, get you some ketchup or something, because this is hot stuff.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grilled Chicken on the Char Broil Bistro - Fast Food at Home

Tonight we had fast food, and it was on the Char Broil Patio Bistro. Food Lion had some thin cut boneless chicken, and I know that can be quicker than waiting in line at the drive through plus healthier and tastes better too.

The Bistro grill is electric, so I just heated it up and then went in and got the chicken ready. It heats up hot and fast.

Regular old chicken does not have a whole lot of taste. Sorry chicken folks. Love chicken, but I doctor it up. That really is the nice thing about boneless chicken is that you can do that and get all different flavors.

Tonight I used Cowboy Cajun Rub. It's kind of like a seasoning salt but not salt. It's spicy but not burn you up hot. My mild son can handle it, but it still has a beautiful kick. My step dad brought it back when he went out to Wyoming to his home state earlier this year.

Some of us are saucy here (and others not as much). I sauced some of the grilled chicken with Bob Evans Wildfire. Again, that may sound super hot. It's not. It's a good flavor kick but fine for all but the most timid.

These boneless chicken pieces were very thin cut, so it only took about a couple of minutes on each side to knock them out. Then we had them on buns like burgers but better for our diets especially since the doctor does not like my tri levels.

Get more info on grilling boneless chicken recipes and stuff at my Yes You Can Grill site. I have more ideas there - my basic go to boneless chicken recipe. It's similar, but I did a dry rub here and then sauced. No marinade. This is the super fast food version of chicken on a grill, and YES it was delicious.

There are so many things you can do on grills that are super easy. I do some gourmet dishes as well, but I'll always have quick and easy grilled dishes too, because some days you just don't feel like standing there a long time and having to check and double check.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Grill Bacon and YES It is Delicious

Yes. You can grill bacon. It is not rocket science, and grilled or smoked bacon is fabulous.

Tara asked me if I'd like to try out Burgers' Smokehouse steak bacon. That's basically a thick cut which is what you really need if you want to grill or smoke bacon on the grates. I'm always game to try out new products as long as companies are fine with with honest and sometimes not so glowing opinions.

I can tell you that doing thick cut bacon like Burger's Smokehouse bacon is easier on a gas grill or a smoker like my Traeger. I did some on the Traeger, and that was low maintenance. I, however, was wanting to get some Kingsford Charcoal flavor, so this week I did part of my pack of Burgers' Smokehouse Bacon on the Portable Kitchen PK charcoal grill.

If you look close, you can see that I offset the charcoal. That just means that I had charcoal on one end of the PK and not on the other.

Bacon has a lot of fat which will make flares and high heat on charcoal. I sure did not want to burn up some high quality bacon, so I had high heat on one side and low heat on the other. The cast aluminum holds heat well, so even on the indirect side, I'm getting some good heat but no flares.

I had some chicken going with Bold and Mild barbecue sauce made by Melanie Yunk. Chicken is not going to flare up much, and these barbecue chicken strips are yummy and so easy to grill. So, I was just moving the food around as I grilled and making sure I did not burn anything up.

Whew boy. This is some primo bacon from Burgers' Smokehouse. I've always been a "thin cut" girl on bacon, because I like it crisp. This bacon grilled up fabulous, so I am now turned on to thick or steak cut as they call it bacon. It did crisp up but in a different kind of way with a really nice texture. The taste was great both ways I've grilled it so far, but even though charcaol took more work, that was my favorite. The Kingsford gave the gourmet bacon even more kick.

You can visit Burgers' Smokehouse in person if you go to California, Missouri. No. I'm not kidding. The city is California, but the state is Missouri. You can also visit them online and order, and you can chat with the company at @baconsteakcuts on Twitter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Grilled Grapples - Apples that Taste Like Grapes on the Weber Kettle

I saw the Grapples down at Harris Teeter, and they were calling my name. The package said that they looked like apples but tasted like grapes. Hum. Now that sounds interesting, and I love to try out new foods.

First I came home and sliced and ate a Grapple and then told the boys I had some Crapples. Scratching heads all round. Oops. That would be Grapples. They decided to try some after I convinced them that I did not actaully buy Crapples.

Sure enough. The apples were just like eating apples but with a grape taste. Wondering how this could be, I got my reading glasses out and discovered that the grape flavor was both natural and artificial, so I can't say how grappie these would be without help from modern science and also have no idea how they got flavor inside the apple without damaging the peelings. We will just leave that as magic.

Today the grill was cranked up for some cheeseburgers for my birthday. The guys did the meal and even cleaned up after. I think I will have birthdays more often.

In any case, I decided to grill some Grapple slices. You could, or course, do just the same with apples. Just use firm ones - baking apples - like Granny Smith apples etc.

I melted 3 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of honey and around 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice (enough for 2 or 3 apples or Grapples). Then I put the Grapples in a zip lock baggie with the sauce cooled a bit and shook the Grapple slices up to coat them. Then, on the grill they went. Just a few minutes per side or until carmelized and with some grill marks if you like.

Here's our grilled Grapples, and they were tasty. The grape flavor with charcoal was quite different, but I liked it. The coating was sweet enough to contrast with the slight grape flavor twang.

Grapples ran $5.99 for four and with them being flavored up artifically, I'd say they'll be more of a fad thing. They do taste good though. So, I may buy and grill more Grapples or not. It was a fun afternoon grilling project though. Plus quick.

Lexington NC Barbecue Festival 2010 - Pigging Out with Pork Lovers

I headed off to the Lexington, North Carolina Barbecue Festival yesterday. It was sunny and in the 70s, so the crowds were thick even at 9 a.m. which is usually a little slower. And, the crowds got thicker from there. I'd have to guess that this is the biggest barbecue festival year since they began the 27 years ago.

The barbecue tents are always super busy. I've read they buy 40 to 50 thousand buns for the chopped pork that is served with slaw as sandwiches - classic North Carolina barbecue. But, the fried food booth was hopping this year as they offered all kinds of strange fried stuff like Oreos, Snickers candy bars, bacon and even butter on a stick and batter deep fried.

Here's deep fried butter. It's a third of a stick of butter. And, I'm just not up to that. Some of my friends got it and said it was great. I'll just take their words for that. I had the bacon on a stick with maple syrup. That was real good - kind of like pancakes with bacon.

Every year they have a great sand art sculpture at the Lexington Barbecue Festival, but I've never seen the artists working on it. This year the sculpture was in progress in front of the Arts Council of Lexington, and the process was really amazing.

Besides Jimmy and my son Eli, I also hung out with Brownkw and SirPorkaLot. If those names sound strange, that's because those are Twitter handles. Yes. I had my first Tweet Up. That's when you meet up with buddies you've made on Twitter. I hang out over at Twitter and talk to a bunch of Twitter peeps. I'm cyndiallison there - no spaces.

We all had barbecue sandwiches of course. What would our barbecue friends think if we went to a barbecue festival and did not have barbecue? And, some of the guys got the curly tail fries which are good too.

I must confess that I got a fried apple pie before I ate lunch. The line for the apple pie booth gets wicked long as the day goes along, so I decided the apples would make it okay for breakfast. I counted it as fruit and did not think about the homemade deep fried wrap.

My Grandma always made the best fried apple pies, so I always look forward to the fried pie booth at the barbecue festival. The fried pies are fabulous. I can't say they are as good as Grandma's, because you just can't say that. They are real close though.

This year they had some fake pork rinds. They are made of whole wheat pasta that they heat to just the right temperature to puff. They really do taste like pork rinds. Could have fooled me, and I've eaten those for years. In any case, we found something healthy at the barbecue festival at "What a Chip."

I also made a new friend at the Barbecue Festival. Here I am with Mr. Pink Pig.

All in all, this was one of the best years ever for the Lexington, NC Barbecue Festival. They had more local booths this time and also some barbecue sauces. The last couple of years had been rainy, and things were slower with fewer things to see and do. This year it was really hopping or maybe I should say oinking in Lexington.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Barbecue Pork Loin with Bacon Weave and Nephews Pumpkin BBQ Sauce

Nephews Pumpkin BBQ Sauce - Yes It is Zippy

Tonight I smoked a pork loin on the Traeger with Nephews pumpkin barbecue sauce. Yes. I did say pumpkin bbq sauce.

Dylan is a home state boy (Raleigh - go NC State). We are buddies on Twitter, and he sent me out some of his barbeuce sauces to try. With it Halloween this weekend, the pumpkin barbecue sauce, of course, caught my eye and imagination.

I had to think on the flavors a bit. The pumpkin barbeuce has pumpkin - well duh of course - and also ghost peppers so some heat. Actually quite a bit of heat. Yes. I did have to taste a spoon of the sauce, and it was fab-u-licious.

Down at the Food Lion, they had pork loins on sale (like half price - yay), and I got to thinking that might be a good match there.

I figured I needed to balance sweet and heat on this one, so here's what I did:

1. I got around 3/4 cup brown sugar with a half loin and sprinkled in a little cinnamon (like 1/2 tsp) and a tad of nutmeg (like 1/4 tsp) and garlic (like 1/4 tsp). Then I rubbed that on the loin. It's not thick. Just a little sugar rub all over and some spots not really looking all covered. Light on rub.

2. I added a bacan weave. I put slices across the narrow way and then did like in and out long ways. It takes a while but is not hard once you get going. Tuck in on the bottom side and serve with the pretty side up - for a hint there.

3. Before I used a turner to put this on the smoker (bottom weave side down), I did sprinkle on some lemon pepper which I love. I went easy on that too. Just a quick dash.

4. I smoked low at around 300 to 350 degress F for about an hour and a half (and turned pretty weave side up around one hour). Temp was 140 F then at 1 1/2 hr, so I sauced with the Nephews Pumpkin BBQ sauce. You could use other sauces, but you won't get this same unique treat.

USDA suggest pork cooked to 160 F. So, I did sauce at 140. Then I waited about 15 minutes or so and checked. I pulled the loin between 150 and 155 F, because I know it continues to cook some once off the smoker, and I do not want bone dry pork. That's just ick.

I let my Nephhews Pumpkin BBQ sauce loin sit there for 20 minutes or so with some aluminum foil also called tin foil in the South loose over the loin. That let the flavors meld and also gave all my peeps time to get back home. We run on a crazy time schedule around here.

This Nephews BBQ Pumpkin sauce pork loin was a home run. The combo of sweet and heat and with a mild loin and flavorful bacon just was spot on. The barbecue smoked loin was thumbs up all round. It was a little kicky (heat) for my mild son, but he just pulled off some of the bacon and sauce to cool his plate down. The medium and hot lovers were in hog heaven. Yeah. It was THAT good. That pumpkin barbecue sauce was amazing, and this recipe showcased it just right.

Monday, October 04, 2010

My Favorite Mustard BBQ Sauce Sam Dog Now on the Market

Sam Dog BBQ Sauce on Chicken

A while back I was telling readers about Sam Dog BBQ sauce. Greg had sent me a home canned jar of his families mustard based barbecue sauce to see what I thought.

North Carolina is vinegar based barbecue sauce country, and I like lots of different sauces. Mustard is down in South Carolina, and I had always liked it okay. But, I'd never had one that knocked my socks off.

Sam Dog Mustard BBQ sauce made a believer out of me though. That is some heap good stuff. It's got that musturd twang, but it's more balanced and complex than other mustard sauces I've tried. Sam Dog has a little sweet flavor plus a nice quiet back bite. It's my top pick yellow mustard barbecue sauce.

I noticed on Twitter yesterday that Greg was rolling out his barbecue sauce. It takes a while to get all that paperwork done and approved. And, today Jeff shot me an email to tell me Same Dog is up and ready. He's on the market, so you can buy Sam Dog BBQ sauce now and see for yourself at Jeff's store.

You heard it first here probably, since Greg sent out a family jar (thanks!) (-: Sam Dog Yellow Dog barbecue sauce is a thumbs up, and now everyone else can check it out too.

Congratulations to Greg and to his family. It takes a huge amount of time and work to develop a great barbecue sauce and then even more time to jump through all the hoops to get it bottled. I'm glad folks do it though, because some of my all time favorite sauces are the small label ones. You can simply taste the heart in the ones that come right from the kitchen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mayberry Days 2010 NC State BBQ Championship Smoke Off - Photos

This was one of those wild weekends. I hit the road right from work rather than backtrack and went to the North Carolina barbecue championship sponsored by the NC Pork Council. It was in Mount Airy, NC which is about an hour and half from work and little further from home. This was Mayberry Days weekend, and the state barbecue cook off was sheduled for the little mountain town for 2010.

With papers to grade and articles to write plus covering a big barbecue event, I stayed until around midnight but headed on home. I thought about getting a hotel room but figured they were full on Mayberry Days weekend and also wasn't so keen on getting up at 5 a.m. or so to "purty up" to get back to the barbecue lot.

As luck would have it, I met Fred Parker on Friday night. He's from the area, and he sent me photos of the morning after the early morning judging took place. Gotta love locals who help a girl out. Thanks Fred!

Now this is one pretty smoked pig if I must say so myself, and since I didn't smoke it, then I can. I can't speak to the taste, but I can sure picture eating this one. Yum!

North Carolina barbecue is chopped, so that's another big job on top of the all night smoking. If you get slow smoked NC barbecue, you are getting a labor of love. No one would do all that work if they did not really care about old fashioned slow barbecue smoking.

The pitmasters work with crews. It would be close to impossible to smoke whole hog without some help. Each pig in this contest ran a little over 120 pounds. I do pork shoulders and butts myself (Lexington style barbecue), because I frankly can't lift a whole pig and don't need that much meat smoked up at once usually.

Barbecue is not just a guys' game, although the bulk of the pitmasters are male. Good guys they are! But, many of the teams have female partners, and the winner this year for the 2010 North Carolina barbecue championship title was the lone female pitmaster - Carla Sweet. That's not her in the photo above, but I have an earlier post about Carla taking the NC BBQ champ title.

Here is some North Carolina chopped barbecue. Actually this is an early chop. They keep working the meat with knives until it's cut fine. This is not pulled pork country. It's chopped barbecue and usually served on a white bread bun with slaw and vinegar based barbecue sauce. It's unique to North Carolina, and if you ever visit the state, you ought to check it out. It's quite different from barbecue in other parts of the country, and it's really yummy.

North Carolina State BBQ Championship in Mount Airy, NC

I hung out at the 2010 North Carolina state barbecue championship contest in Mount Airy until about midnight. Pig smoking is an all night affair. I told the barbecue guys to have good smokes and headed back home to do some barbecue writing and to edit photos.

That mobile blogging thing was harder than flipping pigs with the slow load speed up there in the NC mountains. I think I could have walked the 80 or so miles home before photos would have uploaded on site.

Fortunately, I met a Mount Airy local, Fred Parker, and he sent me some barbecue contest photos. So, now you can see a whole hog barbecue contest the morning after.

Wow. Now that's a pretty smoked pig. They definately look tastier in the morning after they are smoked than at night when they are raw pig.

Whole hogs call for big smokers - of course. There were a range of different smokers at the 2010 NC state barbecue championship. Some of them were store bought and others were handmade smokers.

The pitmasters watch those temperatures and check out the meat. There's done and there's ready. It's a talent to get smoked whole hog smoked pork just perfect.

Once the pigs are done, there's a lot of chopping. In North Carolina, barbecue pork is typically chopped (not pulled) and then sauced. When you have top notch pig smokers like at this state championship, the secret and the win can be in the sauce which in vinegar based with various amounts of red (tomato product) depending on whether you are east or west of the North Carolina barbecue divide line.