Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nephew's Peachy Potle' Barbecue Sauce

Tonight I broke out the Nephew's Peachy Potle' barbecue sauce. I'd been saving it back for a special evening, and since some of the guys were in for the holidays, it seemed a good night to test out this sauce from Garner, North Carolina.

Since I had some nice boneless pork chops, I went ahead and sauced them and let them rest for about a half hour while I started up the charcoal. With a sauce with a sugar base like this one, I would not sauce ahead with a larger cut of meat that takes longer to grill. These little cuts of pork grill up fast, so it works out perfect to sauce them ahead.

I had the charcoals good and hot and let the grate heat well, since it was very chilly outside. You want the grates hot regardless, since meat is likely to stick to cold grates and then your barbecue sauce doesn't stay on.

The Nephew's peach barbecue sauce set up nicely in 3 or 4 minutes. Then I flipped the chops and did the other side. All told it took about 10 minutes to grill these done but not dried out. The biggest mistake with the little pork chops that I see is grilling them too long. The USDA recommends 145 degrees F on grilled pork now. Remember though that pork continues to cook a bit after being pulled off.

Our grilled pork chops looked and smelled great, and the flavor was terrific. The peach flavor is natural with a nice sweet taste and just a little kick of heat. The balance is there. This sauce enhances the meat without overpowering it. It's a shame to grill a perfect pork chop and then not even be able to taste it. With Nephew's the sauce simply takes the flavor up several notches.

I'm glad I saved back the peachy potle' for an evening with the guys home. I was pretty certain it would be a hit, since the cherry potle and ghostly pumpkin by Newphew's had both been winners. The cherry barbecue sauce by Nephew's is our all time favorite on country ribs in the smoker. I think the peach would be really good too, so that's the next thing I want to do with the peach barbecue sauce.

Nephew's is a rather new sauce and growing. They were in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill area close to Garner, but I think they are available in Charlotte as well. If you're not close by, you can buy Nephew's barbecue sauce online, and it's well worth it. I ordered in the Cherry Potle' to give for Valentine's Day gifts. It's a beautiful red sauce, so it went well with the heart theme.

Here's a picture of the Nephew's barbecue sauce jar. I know it helps to know what you're looking for. The red headed guy in the blue cap is on all the labels.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin - Book Review

Texas is a big barbecue state, and Austin has a terrific selection of barbecue joints. While you can spend hours online looking up information on barbecue restaurants in the area, I'd recommend getting Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin by Gloria Corral.

Gloria's guide is her first book, and it's a basic guidebook. It includes all the information you'd need or want without a huge amount of fluff. Austin is divided by area with maps for each marking the barbecue restaurants included. Each restaurant gets a double page spread with general data like times open and whether they take credit cards etc. Then, Gloria gives the inside scoop on each. This is the kind of information you don't usually get. Some little barbecue places can be hard to spot, so she gives extra descriptions. She includes data about other specials like homemade banana pudding or peach cobblers. You don't know to order those goodies if someone doesn't check it out and tell you.

This is a book that is small and easy to pack to take along. It has a solid index of the barbecue restaurants which range from ones I've heard of like Stubb's to others that are not as well known like The Salt Lick BBQ and Bee Caves.

I used to live in Texas, and I sure do miss that beef barbecue. I'll have to take a road trip one of these days, and I'll have to save up some calories, so I can try out all these neat barbecue restaurants in Austin or at least a few of them.

If you live in Austin, TX or close or are moving there or just taking a trip, this is a very handy book to have on hand or in the glove box.

For more information on the book and Austin barbecue or to buy a copy, visit Gloria's barbecue web site. You can also follow her at Twitter under bbqloversguide.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for Grilling and Barbecue Guys n Girls

If you have a grill guy or girl on your holiday list, there are loads of great gifts that are sure to make your special barbecue person want to fire up the charcoal or hit the gas button. Best of all, you can get great grilling gifts in a big range of prices from just a few dollars to off the charts.

I'm sharing some of my favorite barbecue items drawn from years of outdoor cooking here at home. I don't sell grilling products (or make a profit on these top picks), so my links will be to reviews I've written (for more info) or to home sites for the companies.

Top Ten Christmas Grill Gifts - On a Budget 

1. Barbecue sauces - There must be thousands of barbecue sauces on the market. I was amazed when I started looking around and trying out new ones. Wow. I've had the opportunity to try out some absolutely fabulous sauces, and I can't begin to name all the great ones (sorry to all you great sauce makers that I can't get in a single post - I'll do a sauce only post one of these days).

One of my favorite barbecue sauces for this year is Nephew's which is out of Raleigh, NC. I especially love the Cherry Polte that we enjoy on country ribs. They have a yummy pumpkin barbecue sauce and a peach sauce that I'm planning to try out soon.

 If you're on a tight budget you can get your griller a new sauce and put a whole new twist on a favorite grilled dish.

2. Marinades - Marinades make a big difference when it comes to grilling or smoking. Marinades add moisture and flavor. It is hard to find really great bottled marinades, but I found a line that I fell in love with when my son gave me a gift certificate to Southern Seasons (a high end food/cooking store in Chapel Hill). That marinade was Allegro Spicy. It's still my all time favorite, but all the Allegro marinades are super.

After I wrote about Allegro marinades, Food Lion added them. So, you may be able to find Allegro at your local grocery store. If not, you can order online. The prices are very reasonable, and these marinades turn even cheap meat into something really special.

3. Oils - This may seem an odd pick for a top barbecue item list, but a rub of a nice oil seals, crisps, and adds flavor to grilled foods. I brush olive oil on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and they come out really moist and full of flavor.

I've tried and liked a lot of oils, but my favorite for oils would be Garlic Gold. They have all natural products with American grown garlic. The flavor is so smooth, you may not even be able to pinpoint that you have a garlic product. This stuff really is like liquid gold.

I'd recommend the sprinkles too. I use the oil and sprinkles on my Greek grilled potatoes, and they are wonderful. I lived in Greece years ago, and I built on what I learned there along with these products to come up with our favorite potatoes on the grill.

4. Grilling and Barbecue Cookbooks - There's nothing much better than kicking back with a great grill or barbecue cookbook. I like to page through and read at night before I go to bed. Then, I have visions of ribs and burgers dancing in my head when I dream.

Again, there are loads of cookbooks to pick from. You can't go wrong with the Weber brand grilling books. I have several and often give them as gifts.

If have a low and slow person on your list, then I'd highly recommend Peace Love Barbecue. It is chock full of stories as well as great recipes.

5. Bear Paws - While I've got low and slow on my mind, I have to mention Bear Paws. If you do pork butts or shoulders, then you'll know that it can be hard to chop them. You need good knives and space to do a nice chop. I've found it easier to shift over to Bear Paws. They are a really simple idea, but they do a great job. It only takes a few minutes to pull the meat and have it on the table.

6. Basting brush - I much prefer the silicone basting brushes out now over the bristle brushes that always seem to leave some bristles behind. Clean up is also easier. You can also get recplacement heads for some of the silicone brushes. There are several basting brushes that I like and use. The ones from Oneida have been solid.

7. Grill Gloves - Outdoor cooking is hard on kitchen gloves and mitts, so it really does pay to spring for a real grill glove. There are two that I especially like. For general outdoor cooking with gas, I love the Oxo grilling mitt. It can go on either hand, and it has a magnet so can be stuck to the side of the gas grill. For charcoal, smoking (especially with larger meat cuts), and for Dutch oven, I go with the Lodge red gloves. They are super sturdy and stand a whole lot of heat.

Here is the Lodge Dutch oven glove:

And, here's the Oxo grilling mitten:

8. Chimney Starter - If your favorite grill guy uses charcoal and does not have a chimney starter, it's an excellent purchase. It's low tech, but it really works. I never buy lighter fluid. The charcoal starts right up with perfect coals in about 10 minutes with my Weber chimney starter. Charcoal starters are under $20 and pay for themselves in just a few grillings. If you want to know more about charcoal starters, I wrote a guide showing how cchimney starters work.

9. Grill Wok - I find that a lot of my barbecue gear gathers dust, but my grill wok gets constant use. It's much easier to wok shrimp, meat chunks, and vegetables rather than thread them on skewers. I usually put them in a marinade beforehand, wok them quickly on the grill, and serve over rice. Quick and easy meal - and really yummy.

Yes. This dinner made in a grill wok was great. In fact, just posting the photo makes me want to go out and find some shrimp.

Here is a photo of my grill wok. I would share the company, but I've had this wok for years, and I don't know who made it. You can find similar woks at most big box stores.

10. Cast Iron Skillet - This may sound odd, but you can do a whole lot with a cast iron skillet on top of a grill grate. I've been using my Lodge skillet on the grill for years. Since it's black, it does not mess it up to have it over flames. If you have more bucks to spend, then Weber came out with a really neat grate system with cast iron drop ins. I don't have that for my Weber kettle, but I hope to get that set one of these days.

Merry Christmas - And Happy Grilling!

See there. Shopping for the barbecue fan or grill guru in your life isn't hard, and it won't break the bank. All of these ideas are inexpensive but very nice to have if you grill or smoke.

If you have a bigger budget, then your outdoor god or goddess likely has his or her eye on a fabulous new grill or a smoker to add to the arsenal. That's terrific too. I won't name out any best grills or smokers, or this post will be a book. Plus, different units work for different people. I have more than 20 grills and smokers, and I love them all (-:

Making a List - Checking it Twice

If you follow my blog, you'll know that there are loads of products that I've tested out and loved. Please feel free to add your products here and tell us about them. Or, if you have a favorite I've not mentioned, toss it out.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Thermapen - Barbecue Master Finally Finds the Perfect Outdoor Grilling Thermometer

Thermapen Splash Proof Digital Thermometer

Finding a good thermometer for outdoor grilling and smoking has proved to be quite a challenge. Over the years I've tried thermometers ranging from cheap pocket models (forever to get a reading and often not accurate) to a deluxe probe model with an indoor alarm (a bear to program and again not particularly accurate).

Some of my barbecue friends had been buzzing about Thermapen, but I'd not had a chance to see or use one. I was toying with the idea of springing for yet another thermometer when Jesse got in touch to see if I'd like to test drive one and share my thoughts. I did a little more research, and this sounded like a thermometer that might work here in the land of multiple grills and chronic smoking.

Jimmy was drafted to smoke a turkey that my step-dad won at the turkey shoot, and I hooked him up with the brand new red Thermapen. The colors on these thermometers are just terrific. They even have a pink one, but my guys aren't so keen when I start snagging pink stuff. They can't wander off with my pink gear (or not so easily).

Checking a Smoked Turkey with the Thermapen Thermometer

This was Jimmy's first turkey on the Big Green Egg. He whipped up a nice brine and let the bird rest overnight and then put it on before I got out of bed. He's the early bird, and I'm a night owl. This works out well for smoking but not so much for movies.

Smoked Turkey on the Big Green Egg - Not Ready Yet

The Big Green Egg is a lid-closed outdoor cooker - convection but with more moisture and with the smoke of course. Opening the lid drops the temperature, so the fast read on the Thermapen was terrific. It only took three or four seconds to get an accurate reading, so it was a fast in and out when the turkey was getting close to done.

Eyeballing a large cut like a turkey or pork shoulder is one sure way to get undercooked meat or dried out sawdust. You can see here that the turkey looks like it could come off. The head room in the Big Green Egg is not huge and with the natural sugars in the brine, the bird browns up really fast. We were several degrees out from a fully smoked turkey at this point.

Jimmy finished smoking off the turkey while I mashed up some potatoes and made gravy, and then we headed over to Mom's house for a big family dinner. Everyone loved the turkey. It was spot on, since the Thermapen made it easy to check the temperature.

Thumbs up Thermapen

I'm really impressed with the Thermapen. It's super easy to use. You just snap the probe out, and the reading comes on. Then you wash and close it to turn it off.

The reading is really fast, and the numbers are large enough to see. My vision is not as good as it used to be, so it's a blessing to be able to easily read a thermometer.

Likewise, the battery compartment is big enough to easily open and replace batteries. I hate items that are so scaled down that I need a magnifying glass and tweezers to try to work on them.

On the flip side, Thermapen is compact and easily fits in my hand or pocket. I have one set that is really big and has wires and probes, and I have to box it up to keep the thermometer set together. I'm not thrilled about the cabinet real estate that one takes up, so I'm a lot happier with the Thermapen which fits right in my kitchen catch all drawer.

The price of the Thermapen would be the only ouch. But, if you wreck a few steaks or a couple of briskets, then you'll find this investment well worth the money. You're getting a custom hand made product out of England that is top quality and accurate. Thermapen has, as an added bonus, the cool factor with the nice design and great colors. After using the Termapen, I'm sold.

I'd also note that Termapen is not just for outdoor grilling and smoking. It's also popular with the kitchen crowd. My next project will be making some homemade candy. I've been using the cold water ball trick which is not always a winner.

You can check out Thermapen and see the thermometer that I tested out as well as some other cool thermometers that they sell. No. I'm not connected with the company in any way. As always, I'm just sharing what I find - the good and the bad. This one goes on my happy list (-:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cholula Hot Sauce - Fire Up Your Food with These Top of the Line Sauces

Cholula Hot Sauce

I've always enjoyed hot sauces but some much more than others. Cholula runs at the top of my pack now, because they have heat without the bitter back bite of some, and they have interesting flavors that make them stand out in the hot sauce category.

You may have come across Cholula, because they are the hot sauce of choice some restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen and On The Border. We don't have those here, so I was missing the boat as is common out here in the sticks.

Chloe emailed about Cholula though, and she asked if I'd like to try the sample pack. Since I love hot sauce and don't have much of a selection here, I said I'd check the hot sauces out and hoped they would be good.

First I tried out the flavors sans food, so I'd have an idea about how I'd want to use the hot sauces. Hot sauces vary a lot, so you want to know if you have something you want to use in grilling or cooking or just as a condiment. In this case, the flavors were great, and these were smooth sauces that could do double duty.

There are four flavors of Cholula:

* Original - Great all purpose hot sauce - in the kitchen, to add heat to other sauces or as a splash.

* Chili Lime - Yum. Nice complex mixture. I like this one where it can shine like on nacho chips or on eggs.

* Chipolte - This hot sauce is my favorite to heat up barbecue sauce when I'm using a milder sauce for those who can't handle too much hot. I just add Cholula Chipolte to part of the suace for grilled foods and leave the others mild.

* Chili Garlic - If you're bored, then here you go. This is an interesting hot sauce that makes your dish perk up. The garlic pops but not over the top. I like this one best as a condiment.

Grilled Chicken with a Kick of Cholula Chipolte

This is a house divided as you'll know if you've been reading Barbecue Master. We have our mild saucers and our spicy saucers. I'm in the hot category, although a few people have sent me stuff that has made me cry uncle.

What I like about a hot sauce like Cholula is that I can divide out the sauce and heat up some of it with hot sauce. I can hit medium, hot or super hot - depending on how much hot sauce I splash in. I find Cholula's Chipolte works great for this.

If I am custom heating the food with hot sauce, then I like to use Leslie's Grill Charms. You can see those in the chicken photo. Grill charms are like wine charms but for grilled foods. I just stick the chili pepper stamped charms in the chicken breasts that have been doctored up with hot sauce. Then, I don't burn the heck out of my family and friends who can't handle the heat kick.

Eggs on the Flat Top Outdoor Grill

The Cholula hot sauces are all great as condiments too. I've had them on a variety of meats and vegetables and even on outdoor fried eggs. I've always kind of grossed out on fried eggs, but adding the hot sauce finally converted me. I still don't like those eggs too runny, but I can see why fried eggs are a Southern favorite and especially when notched up with a good hot sauce.

You may be able to find Cholula hot sauces at your local grocery. I've not seen them at mine yet (no shocker). Right now, you can also get a $1 off coupon if you like Cholula on Facebook. I'm not sure how long that deal will last, but it's a sweet deal for a hot sauce.

I also noticed that Cholula has a beef jerky Jack Links on the market now. I've not had a chance to try that, but I could certainly see these premium hot sauces making for a really nice jerky. I'll have to keep an eye out for Cholula jerky too.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipe Cookbook - 2nd Edition

The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes 2nd ed by Judith Finlayson

Yes. I do own a crock pot. The barbecue guys give me a hard time, so I tell them: "Hey, you have to have something to keep the hot dog chili warm in."

The reality is that I have three crock pots, and I love them. Since I'm usually making the meals on my own (with a little help here and there from the boys), it's really nice to have parts of a meal going in a crock pot, so I can tend the grill (which is not so forgiving on times).

It can be tricky to find really great slow cooker recipes, but I know that Judith Finlayson has terrific crock pot recipes. I know, because I had her first edition. When I say that I "had" the book, don't think I just got rid of it. No. It has gone visiting as do many of my favorite cookbooks. Someone (usually a son) will be looking through a cookbook and ask if it's a good one. If it is really super, then I'm likely to say, "Oh yes. You take that on and try it out. You'll love it." Then, I usually forget where I sent the cookbook, and so I go buying cookbooks again. That is called "shirt off your back" mother syndrome. Mothers will understand I think.

When Martine sent an email to see if I'd like to try out the new second edition of The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, I, of course, was game for that. They'd send a copy, and then I could check it out and see if it was worth sharing with my readers or worth panning (which - boy - I hate when I get bad stuff). This one sounded like a sure bet, because the new edition builds on the first one but is updated with tips for various size crock pots, single cooking crock potting, and some healthier options too.

The cookbook arrived quickly, and it just looked familiar but updated. It was like a friend coming over with a new hair style and some kicking blue jeans in a smaller size. I had to smile.

Side Dishes in the Slow Cooker - Yum

When I grill, I like to have yummy side dishes waiting in the crock pot. I do sides on the grill too, but that can get tricky on timing and if I have larger groups eating.

You can see that there's a nice selection of side dishes in the cookbook. I also find the appetizer section great for some munching especially when slow smoking something that takes a long time. And, the soups make a nice starter and are easy, since they just sit there and simmer.

Crock Pot Succotash by Finlayson

It's hard to pick a favorite side dish from this cookbook, but you really can't go wrong with this delicious succotash. It goes with just about anything you might put on the grill, and it really is a beautiful side dish with the mix of colors.

Cake in the Slow Cooker

It seems that desserts often get dropped off the grill out menu, or they end up being things like cookies out of the box. Again, the slow cooker can be a good way to do a complete meal without getting totally frazzled (which then makes for a not so great party).

The crock pot upside down cake you see above reminds me a bit of Dutch oven cakes which the boys and I used to make a lot in the fire pit in the yard. We need to do that again soon, but . . . in the meantime . . . I have good slow cooker recipes for hot and tasty desserts that are waiting when the meal is over.

Gotta Love a Pot Roast in the Crock Pot

Looking at Barbecue Master, you might think I don't even have a kitchen. I do. In fact, I'm updating it right now. And, I have a web site called Yes You Can Cook that has some of our family favorite indoor recipes. So, while I do three to five meals a week typically on the grill, I do fire up the stove or plug in the crock pot too.

One meal I especially love in the slow cooker is roast with vegetables, and you can see that Judith's roast looks great. You should taste it too. Spot on. Now I wish I had put a roast in the slow cooker this morning. Oh well. There's always tomorrow.

If you have a crock pot or slow cooker or are thinking about it, then I'd recommend The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes 2nd edition by Judith Finayson. It's my favorite of all the slow cooker cookbooks I've ever used, and I like this update that is still comfortable and familiar but is more flexible and up-to-date with what's out there on the market and how people live and eat today.

Now I just wish I lived near Judith, so I could be her taste tester. Oh well. Maybe one of my neighbors will decide to write a cookbook. I just hope it's one of the good cooks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers - All You Need to Know to Cook Pork

The Whole Hog Cookbook

I've been checking out The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All that Good Stuff by Libbie Summers. Jessica from Rizzoli had emailed to ask if I'd be interested in a sample copy, and I know that a lot of my barbecue/grilling readers enjoy grilling and smoking pork.

The Whole Hog is NOT a grilling/barbecue cookbook. It's not about smoking whole hogs. I'd say to pick up Peace, Love & Barbecue if that is what you have in mind. This is a cookbook that teaches you how to cook all the parts of the hog or pig. So, let's say you've been wanting to make Chitterlings which are better known as chintlins around here. You won't be finding that recipe in many cookbooks, but here it is in The Whole Hog Cookbook:

Yes. This Cookbook Includes a Recipe for Chitterlings.

Perhaps chitterlings are not up your alley. I can't say myself. I've not tried them, but I've not turned them down. With my mountain background, I'm not sure how I've missed them, but I have. Now I can make them with this recipe, but I'll have to think about that. I'm not so sure I can sell the boys on them, since they refused to eat pork butt when they were little. I got around that by calling pork butt shoulder instead of butt. Sometimes, it's all about the spin.

Gyros with Pork Belly

Now, this gyro recipe is a keeper. Before you get freaky about pork belly, do know that it's the bacon section of the pig - so more fat. Summers got this recipe from a guy in Greece, and that's where you get really great gyros. Most sold as such in the United States are not very good. I know, because I lived in Greece for a couple of years. These gyros aren't exactly like the ones in the neighborhood where I lived, but the gyros vary around the country in Greece. If you want authentic gyros, then here you go . . . and the tzatziki sauce recipe to boot.

These are a couple of the more unusual recipes in the cookbook. You get all the standards as well. And, some of them are designed for the grill or can be easily adapted. Try out the kebabs. Yum!

Parts of the Pig

If you're not very familiar with pork, then you get a lot of basic information but not in a "talking down" kind of way. The cookbook is chock full of beautiful photos like the spread above which helps you understand the cuts and also means you know what you're looking for when you go to the grocery store or meat market.

How to Make Breakfast Sausage

For more complicated recipes or processes, there are additional photos which, again, make it easier to visualize what you need to do to make your pork happen. Making sausage, for instance, sounds pretty labor intensive (and does take work and effort), but you can see in the photos, that it's done in steps and is do-able.

Fashion for the Farm?

The guys did want to know why the author is watering the pigs in her church clothes. Hum. Well, those are more like business casual. But WHITE! This is a cookbook, and quite a few of the photos are girly. That can be kind of cool I guess, but I would not suggest white clothing when in the pig pen (even if you are a fashionista). But, if you can put together a cookbook this good and with this many great recipes for pork, then I guess you can wear whatever you want.

All in all, I have to say this is an excellent cookbook for anyone who loves pork or wants to expand beyond pork chops and bacon. There are loads of ways to cook pig from one end to the other, so you're missing out if you only do pork a couple of ways. With The Whole Hog Cookbook, you're set. You could stay busy a long time mastering the art of cooking pork, and you can do it with The Whole Hog Cookbook.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Barn Winery - Apple Strawberry Does North Carolina Pork Proud

Apple Strawberry Wine from Apple Barn Winery

The guys took a road trip to the mountains, and they decided to bring me back something apple themed. They went with Apple Strawberry wine from the Apple Barn Winery in Sevierville, TN. Here's the contact info in case you're interested (No. I have no connection at all, or I would tell you):

Apple Barn Winery
220 Apple Valley Road
Sevierville, Tennessee 37862
Phone: (865) 428-6850
Toll Free: 1-866-428-6850

Normally I don't review wines, since it's not often that I would serve a wine with barbecue. The flavors ususually just don't quite hit it. Beer is usually a safer bet with barbecue, and it still would be with many types of barbecue.

The Apple Barn wine caught my fancy though, because it's sweet enough (without going up that high school Mad Dog road) to work with NC chopped pork on a bun. Most often the NC pork is served with sweet tea or with Cheerwine (a regional soft drink). This Apple Barn wine captured that sweet kick flavor and feel without coloring so far outside the lines that it just gets messy.

Tenessee is a pretty good haul from here, but I'll have to stop by when I get out that way and try some of their other wines. They really do get sweet without being sappy. Normally I'd go dryer, but this apple strawberry wine was a hit out of the ball park especially for pairing with pork.

The guys really loved the cork. It's red and has the phone number up the side. Nice touch. Always nice to make sure people know who you are. Nice marketing on the cork. My son always saves those, so I can find Apple Barn for sure now.

Garlic Head Barbecue Sauces Pack the Flavor Both Hot and Not

Garlic Head Barbecue Sauce

Keith emailed to ask if I'd like to walk on the wild side and try his Garlic Head barbecue sauces. He told me that these are not your typical barbecue sauces, and he was correct.

The first thing you'll notice is that Garlic Head bbq sauces are THICK. You've probably had thick barbecue sauces before, but they were not likely this thick. You could almost pack these in red Solo cups and make barbecue sand castles. Yes. That thick.

Pouring it on Thick with Garlic Head BBQ Sauce

I didn't pour on the barbecue sauce. I spooned out the Garlic Head and kind of painted the chicken. It does spread. Kind of like cake frosting. I wasn't so sure how this would work out, but the sauce was smelling good.

Grilling Chicken with Garlic Head Barbecue Sauce

The heat spreads the Garlic Head around a bit, and then it doesn't drip all down in the grill. So, that's nice. The grates are going to need some tender loving care. Then again, if you're saucing, you're going to have to elbow grease it the next day. Just the nature of the beast. Personally I'd rather pull grates and have the mess there versus dripped all down inside the grill as with many barbecue sauces.

Garlic Head BBQ Chicken with Grilled Cheese Bread

Here you can see our grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts which are super easy to grill up when you're tired. Today I was, because I painted the bathroom and shoveled out my son's bedroom. I am tempted to mail him those icky socks he hide in the closet. Is it really harder to put socks in the hamper than in the bottom of the closet? I can only guess this is a guy thing.

But . . . back to the sauce.

There are two versions of Garlic Head. One is Gold. That one is the garlic sauce with little heat. Garlic Head Spicy is garlicky but much hotter. They say 8 times hotter, and that's hard to measure, but I'd say spot on.

The plate you see above is the Garlic Head Spicy. To be honest, I got mixed up. I meant to do the garlic but not hot, since my mild son was home. So, I told the guys that the sauce was mild, and then I fired them up. OOPS!

Garlic Head is a thick tomato based barbecue sauce - bold in all ways. Both are great for garlic lovers. I'm a garlic lover. The spicy really is hot (like HOT), so it's not for the mild folks (even if they do love garlic). I'm a heat lover (no prob - but I did break a sweat). It's hard to find a barbecue sauce style I don't like. Figs. Ugh. Most other flavors or heats, I'm fine (if the sauce is balanced and good). I have had some gosh awful sauces, but Garlic is Head is not in the gosh awful category. I go thumbs up, but I would say to be sure that you have garlic fans in general and heat fans if going for the spicy.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dimples Barbecue Sauce - Raleigh, NC - Rich and Flavorful

Dimples BBQ Sauce - New North Carolina Product

After the Biker, Blues & BBQ competition, Rich and Jan Campana got in touch. They were judging at the event. They're certified Kansas City Barbecue Association judges. I was at Tilley Harley Davidson taking notes, snapping photos, and eating some heap good barbecue. We didn't cross paths (that I know of), but Jan saw my barbecue comp photos over at Facebook. We will have to try to meet up in person one of these days, since they are right here in North Carolina - in Raleigh where I graduated from NC State.

Jan dropped me an email and told me about their barbecue sauce - Dimples. It's a new sauce as far as being on the market now, but it's, of course, the product of a lot of work to develop the perfect barbecue sauce. The small batch sauce is now at a few stores in Raleigh but also luckily available online at Dimples BBQ.

If you're familiar with traditional North Carolina barbecue sauces, you'll know that they are vinegar based and rather twangy and thin. Dimples is tomato based and more in the Kansas City range in terms of thickness. I love both types, but I know that our vinegar sauces can be a bit much for people from other parts of the country. That puts Dimples in a more mainstream category as far as appeal.

Dimples was a deep rich red color and smelled great when I popped the seal, so I was keen to get my pork chops on the O Grill.

Pork Chop on O Grill with Dimples Barbecue Sauce

You can see that Dimples BBQ Sauce stayed on the meat really well and caramelized really nicely. Pork chops grill quick, so some barbecue sauces are too thin to stay on well or so thick that they don't color up and have the pretty grill grate marks. Dimples was perfect on the chops.

When it comes to barbecue sauces, it's all about the flavor though. It can be beautiful, but if it doesn't taste great, then it's not a score.

Dimples BBQ Sauce Grilled Pork Chops

I pulled the pork chops off the grill and cut into one. Yum. These pork chops did taste just as good (if not better) than they looked.

The flavor is rich but not overly bold and certainly not hot. Seasonings are balanced with no particular note standing out above the others - just a really pleasant medley. Sometimes I recommend barbecue sauces but specific to certain groups. In this case, you have a barbecue sauce that has general appeal. This could be a solid "go to" pick that would be loved by all your family and friends.

Little Mini Weber Grill for my Birthday - Fun for Barbecue Sauces

My Brother Found Me a New Grill - A Super Mini Weber

It's no secret that I have a ton of grills. I need to go do a head count, but I'd say I have somewhere between 20 and 30 grills at the house right now.

Now I have a new grill, and it won't even be taking up porch space. It's a super mini Weber kettle grill. And, it's cute as can be.

My brother finds really awesome gifts, and he outdid himself on this one. I thought I'd seen about every grill around, but I'd not seen the decorative mini Weber.

This is not really a grilling grill. In fact, it's intended to be the base for a flower arrangement. But, the flower shop sold one to my brother without the flowers. Sometimes you just have to ask.

So, now I have this cool little baby Weber grill. My son thinks I should crunch up some charcoal really small and try this little grill out. But, of course, I'm not going to smoke it up. It's going to be my barbecue sauce holder, since it has a little plastic liner inside which would be where the flowers would be arranged.

It's the thought that counts on gifts, and this baby Weber grill was just the ticket for my birthday. It made me smile to see my first and favorite grill done up in a miniature size, and I know it's going to be really cool when I break it out for my barbecue sauce bowl.

Thanks Matthew! Love the mini Weber. Super find.

Isn't This the Cutest Grill Ever?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Brine in a Bottle - Sweetwater Spice Company BBQ, Butt, and Rib Bath - Easy and Tasty

Sweetwater Spice Company - BBQ Bath Brine Concentrate

A good brine can really add flavor and moisture to grilled and smoked foods, but they can be labor intensive, especially if doing the hot brine method to bring the seasoning flavors forward. Those have to be chilled after they've been cooked, so that means starting ahead a day or two. So, yes, I brine, but also, yes, I'm lazy sometimes.

I'd never seen a ready made brine, until Sarah sent an email about Sweetwater Spice Company's bath brine concentrates. As far as I know, there's not another company doing the bottled ready-to-use brines. If I've missed something, just let me know.

Sarah said she could send me a couple of bottles of the brine, so I could see if they're any good. I thought that would be a nice plan, since I know many of my readers like to try out new grilling ideas and may find making homemade brine tedious.

When the bottles of brine came in, I had Smoked Habanero BBQ Bath and Smoked Apple Spice Butt & Rib Bath. I was a little worried about the "smoked" part, since I am definately not a liquid smoke fan. But, the smoke was from smoked paprika, so whew . . . I didn't have to break out the mouthwash to smother fake smoke taste.

Boston Butt with Sweetwater Spice Company Brine Bath

These brines are concentrates, so you are getting much more than at first glance. The directions are one part brine to three parts water. I had to explain to one of my guys that the four cup measure was super easy - just put 1 cup of brine in the cup and then fill to the four cup line. He was trying to do some math and make this hard. I'm not a math whiz, but one part to three parts is easy and no need to dirty up extra measuring cups.

Once the brine was mixed up, we poured it over the Boston Butt. The bottle says you can use a zip bag, but a butt is pretty big. And, I don't have the jumbo zip locks. My Thatsa Bowl from Tupperware was just perfect - plus has a lid that burps out the air and also fits close enough to a 6 pound Boston butt to keep it from floating.

Boston Butt on Weber Smokey Mountain After Being Brined

The bottle lists times to brine. It's one hour per pound on a butt or shoulder. We just let it sit in the refrigerator overnight which worked out fine. You wouldn't want to brine that long for smaller cuts.

The brine smelled really nice when we first poured it up and then again when getting the butt on the smoker. The base is apple juice and then there are spices and peppers. And - salt. That's what makes a brine a brine and what adds the moisture to the meat. I'd also note that these brines are gluten free and low in sugar, so that will help on some of the special diets for those reading.

Our Boston butt turned out beautiful as you can see, and the flavor was great. The meat was very moist, and it picked up some smoke flavor. With the habanero brine, we got a little kick as well. It was really great.

I was sold, so we did a second Boston butt and used the Smoked Apple Spice bath. It's lower on the heat meter, and the flavor is a little more smokey. I think I liked the Apple Spice brine the best, but it would be a hard call. They were both excellent.

If you are thinking about brining and want to save the extra steps to make your own or you don't want to chance wrecking a big cut of meat or expensive meat with a homemade brine that may or may not be great, then pick up a bottle of Sweetwater Creek Spice brine concentrate. It's super easy to use. The flavors are fabulous. I'm sure you'll be impressed, and your family and friends will be too when you serve up your smoked butt (or chicken, turkey, shoulders).

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Brat Haus Beer Mustard with Grilled Sausage Appetizers - Easy and Delicious

Fischer & Wieser Brat Haus Beer Mustard

I have been enjoying the Fischer & Wieser Brat Haus beer mustard that Toni sent out, and I've been meaning to tell everyone about this great gourmet mustard.

It sounded like one I'd enjoy from the start, and I was not disappointed. This is a bold but smooth flavored mustard with beer notes. It's perfect with grilled brats as noted by the company, and it gives hot dogs a more adult feel.

I tried this mustard out first on rice with vegetables and shrimp. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking I'd walk on the wild side, but I can tell you that mustard on white rice is not a recipe that I will be sharing with you. You want something bolder tasting to work with Beer Haus Mustard.

After the first fail (my fault totally), I did the classic brats with mustard. My brats are fabulous, and that's not just my ego there. The folks at work went wild for them. If you want really terrific brats, then check out my grilled brats recipe and then top them off with a great mustard like Fisher & Wieser's.

When I review products, I do like to give readers new ideas on the grill as well, so I kept thinking of ideas. I was looking in the freezer, and we had some sausages left over from a low country boil. Hum . . . my brain starts clicking.

I got the sausages out and cut them in rings (as you can see) and then put barbecue rub on them. The rub you see on these is Dizzy Pig Barbecue Seasoning. Dizzy Dust has a great flavor with some pop, but it's not over the top on anything. A little spice. A little sweet. The orginal is a wonderful all purpose seasoning.

I put the sausages in a grill wok and heated them just a few minutes. They are pre-cooked, so they just needed to be heated and to catch a little smoke flavor. I waited for the sausages to lightly brown and sweat a bit.

The grilled sausages tasted wonderful, and they were super simple to make. The Brat Haus Mustard - just wow. Great on these quick appetizers. The guys were all blown away, and I will definately put these on my barbecue grilling party idea rotation. In just minutes I can have a ton of these on the table and looking festive with the rub coloring and with the mustard to the side for contrast.

Grilled Appetizer Sausages with Gourmet Mustard from Fischer & Wieser

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pig Pen's Hot & Spicy Seasoning Made My Chicken Yell Uncle

Pig Pen at Tilley Harley Davidson's Biker, Blues & BBQ

I finally met Pig Pen at the Tilley Harley Davidson Biker, Blues & BBQ barbecue competition in Salisbury, NC, and he remembered that I had tried out the original Pig Pen seasoning and had really loved it. I had bought Pig Pen seasoning at Food Lion, and then I got my reading glasses out and figured out that I'd bought a really local product. Small world it is.

Pig Pen hooked me up with a bottle of his Pig Pen's Spice It Up! Hot & Spicy Seasoning. That's his new addition to his seasoning barbecue sprinkle or rub line.

After a weekend throwing down with enough barbecue to make me waddle, you might think I'd take a break. Well, I did give it over 24 hours. But, I was really thinking about that Pig Pen's spicy, so I broke out some boneless, skinless chicken. If you read my blog, you know that I live in the sticks, so our fast food is chicken sans bones and skin. It's on and off in minutes - literally. If you want a fast and easy grilled meat, then grill boneless, skinless chicken. Super easy it is.

I got my chicken out, and I sprinkled and rubbed it with Pig Pen's Hot & Spicy. I could smell the familiar Pig Pen signature scent but also picked up the extra heat. Yum. I do love some heat.Pig Pen's is a pretty traditional barbecue sprinkle or rub with a very nice balance, and the hot version is similar but with the heat turned up.

Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts with Pig Pen's Hot & Spicy Barbecue Seasoning

The chicken grilled up nice. I heated the grill before to prevent sticking and so that the chicken would grill fast and retain the moisture. If you don't use a marinade or a sauce, then you have to be quick or the chicken can be like dried shoe leather. When chicken doesn't have skin or bones, then it's flash quick grilling especially when doing a rub. That really doesn't have anything to do with the rub or seasoning, but it does make a real difference in the outcome . . . just saying.

Pig Pen Hot & Spicy Seasoned Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Strips

My Pig Pen chicken was spot on. Nice color. Nice smell. Nice and moist. Excuse the brag. I do my fast food chicken a couple of times a week, and if I didn't nail it, then it's bad on me.

I was mightily impressed with my Pig Pen spicy chicken. I got my hot genes from my Poppaw. But, he could run circles around me on heat. So, I come in on the lower end of the fire eating crowd. I can eat any heat thrown out, but I don't if it's going to make me curl up in a ball and yell uncle.

Pig Pen Spicy is HOT. My buddy (now) Pig Pen said it was kind of medium, and I would agree. But, the guys were in pain. Don't give my guys a hard time; they try out all the stuff I check out and are very good sports.

I would say that Pig Pen Spice It Up! is a great pick for those who like to put their feet to the fire. I enjoyed the heck out of dinner. But, this grilling seasoning is hot, so I would not suggest that anyone spring this one on friends and family who may have milder tastes. For a general cook out or smoke, I'd go with Pig Pen original which can be bought at Food Lion as I mentioned. If you enjoy walking on the wild side with some burn, then get some Pig Pen Hot & Spicy. You will know you ate some heat, and you will be loving on it if that floats your boat.

Per a reader request, here is how you grill boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It makes a really simple dinner and on the table in minutes.