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.