Saturday, March 31, 2012

Zip Sauce - Looking for the Extra Flavor on the Grill?

Zip Sauce - Maybe This is What Your Grilled Food is Missing

If you are just tossing your meat on the grill, then you're probably not getting the flavor burst that you've had when eating out at a good restaurant or off your friends grills who have learned to season up.

Michael Esshaki, a Michigan chef who is known for his skills with Italian foods, noted that the best steaks in his area were sauced. By sauced in this caes, I'm talking about a thinner product and not the Kansas style barbecue sauce which is thick and put on meat near the end of grilling. I'd be more likely to call it a marinade in grilling terms. It pours out like Worchestershire sauce. But, the flavor is a lot different.

The original idea for using Zip Sauce involves melting 1/4 cup of butter and then adding 1/4 of the bottle of Zip Sauce. It is then served over steak or whatever you want to give a nice buttery and rich flavor boost. Simple enough. And, this does make a delicous dip or sauce.

I found that straight Zip Sauce mixed in with 80/20 hamburger meat (just a few splashes) and then sprinkled over the burgers along with a seasoning salt (Lawry's in this case) and lemon/pepper worked out great. Note that I'm using pretty high fat meat for grilling (makes them juicier), so I knocked out the butter for this burger grill out. This also saved a step (for the lazy) and gave me a chance to get the full flavor of the product. I try not to mix up flavors on new products, or I may not really know what something tastes like.

Grilled Hamburgers with Zip Sauce

The flavor here with Zip Sauce is zippy. We got an interesting and very good hotter taste on the burgers, but it was not really a hot sauce flavor like most hot grilling sauces. The taste was a low hot (zip does describe it well) that I'd place it as sort of a combination of Italian and Asian. OK. I know that sounds strange, but it works and really well.

I'd not heard of Zip Sauce until Carrie emailed to tell me about it and to offer to send a bottle to see if I thought my readers would like it. It sounded a little different from the usual grill products I use, but anything that can be used indoors can be used outdoors, and I like to experiment.

Check out the Zip Sauce page where they are adding all kinds of great recipes (and have a contest going now - spring/summer 2012). And, you can also get more ideas on the Zip Sauce Facebook page.

Zip Sauce is a thumbs up. You can get that yummy gourmet drizzle sauce that is hard to create at home, unless you spend a lot of time working on it. Then, you can play around and try Zip Sauce other ways as well. I wouldn't go heavy if not cutting the sauce with butter as directed, but it does work well as a flavor splash on meat. I'm sure other will come up with other interesting ways to use this new bottled base sauce. Share the word if you come up with something good.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Barbecue Master Makes Frugal Dad's Best Barbecue Blog List

Frugal Dad likes me. That's good, because he doesn't even know me. He just picked out what he considered the best barbecue blogs online, and he found me and put me on his list.

I do want to thank my fans, readers, and drop by visitors, because this outdoor cooking blog would not be find-able if you guys didn't check in to read my work and use my tips.

Barbecue Master was mentioned in the introduction of the top barecue blog lists as one that offers easy-to-follow information. That made me smile, because I started this blog to help family and friends who wanted grilling help and recipes that would be "no fail."

If you're new here, look around. You'll probably find what you need. If not, get in touch. Many of my posts come from my family and from visitors and questions they ask. If you're wondering how to do something on the grill, someone else probably is as well.

Check out Frugal Dad. He has a lot of great information (on all kinds of topics), and his barbecue blog pick list is really great. I'm not just saying that because he put me on there (-: I'm familiar with quite a few of the bloggers on the list, and Frugal Dad is spot on. I also found some new grilling blogs that I didn't know about, so I had fun with the top pick list too.

* Thanks to Big Wayner for sending me the badge HTML to get that graphic at the top. For some reason, I could not get that copied here on my computer, so he helped me out on that. Wayne made the Frugal Dad list too (rightfully so), and you'll enjoy Wayne's Barbecue Blog for sure.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Win a Really Nice Grill Cover from Empire Patio Covers - Ends 4-8-2012

Enter to Win a Free Grill Cover From Empire - Easter Drawing

It's that time of year - time to fire up the grill. That's the fun part. The "not so fun" part may be the clean up if you just let your grill sit out after the temperatures went down last season.

I keep my grills under cover which can be challenging, since I have around 30 grills. In some cases, that means they are under the porch or in the garage but not fully covered and protected. I can tell the difference as you can see with this nice Charbroil four burner grill with double side work areas.

How Did My Grill Get This Messy in the Garage?

You can see my grill looks pretty good, but it did get a lot of pollen and general outdoor grime over the winter even though it was in the garage.

If you can't see what I'm talking about, then here is what North Carolina pollen looks like in the spring even if you keep your grill basically inside.

Dirt Happens. Dirty Grills are a Reality.

I'm looking at a pretty easy clean up here, since I did store the grill over the winter. But, you know all that pollen and gunk can't be good for a grill.

Then, consider that many grills sit out in the weather all year and take a lot more abuse than mine. I was tempted to slip over to a neighbor's house for a shot of an uncovered grill and how that looks, but that would be rude and very un-Southern (not to mention I might get shot).

So, take my word for it, a covered grill fares much better. I have covers for about 1/3 of my grills. The covers take the brunt of the mess, and those covered grills are easier to fire up, have less rust problems, and they last longer.

OK. So We Know a Grill Cover is a Great Idea.

When you invest in a barbecue grill, it's a wonderful idea to buy a cover. But, we know how things go. A lot of great ideas do not get the follow up.

But . . . you're in luck (if you win).

Empire Patio Covers is offering two winners free grill covers. They sent me one to check out to see if I wanted to host a contest. I only host contests that I think offer real value to readers. I was impressed with my Empire Grill cover out of the package and then even more so when I put it on my dirty (but now clean) gas grill.

Jimmy Helped Me Get the Grill Cover Out and Cover Up MyBBQ  Grill Investment

Excuse my wrinkles here. You are seeing my grill cover just out of the package, so it's not had time to shake out. I wasn't so sure about ironing it, and I really doubt most buyers would. Well, my Mom might . . .

I can tell you that this is a good quality outdoor grill cover. I've looked at a lot of them (and own several). This one is sized well for standard gas grills with various sizes. They also have straps under with easy-to-use but solid clips. That's not a critical element here usually, but I saw issues with a grill cover at a house we rented at the beach last summer. The house owner had to buy bungie ropes to keep the cover in place. That grill cover was skimpy (unlike the Empire grill cover which covers this entire very large gas grill). And, the Empire is a heavier material as well. So, we're really talking apples and oranges. This grill cover is the real deal, and you don't have to buy bungies.

So . . . How Do You Win a Grill Cover?

I keep my contests low tech and simple. I hate to jump through hoops and have to sign up for all kinds of stuff to enter, so I don't ask you to do that.

First, check out the grill covers at Empire. You'll see that they are sized for gas grills (the most popular selling). Then, check out the colors (right on the page link).

In my comments here, tell me which grill cover you'd like and why you need or want a grill cover.

Be sure to leave some way for me to get in touch. I don't grab your contacts (in case you wondered). But, I do need some way to let you know you won.

Grill Cover Winners

I'm inviting family over for Easter, so I'll have one of the kids draw the two winning names. I make slips and put them in a bucket (the names - not the family kids). Then, I ask for someone neutral to draw.

The deadline is midnight EST April 7, 2012 for the free grill covers, and the drawing will be on Easter April 8, 2012.

I'll contact the winners after we wrap up our Easter fun here and allow three days to get back in touch.

Empire takes care of the prizes and getting those out to the winners.

Extra Entries?

I know a lot of contests include extra entries, and people like to up the odds. I want readers to add entries only if they want to and they add value. We can see why I am not in sales (-:

With that in mind, here are some extra entry options:

1. Invite a friend to enter and have them mention your name in the comments, so I'll know to add another slip for you. They can just put BLANK sent me.

2. Tweet this free gas grill cover contest and tag it #cyndiallison. That's my Twitter name, so I can look up those entries.

3. Link this contest on Facebook and add a note in my comments here at Barbecue Master to let me know you did that.

4. Google plus the contest and again let me know here in my comments.

That's a total of five ways to enter, and you don't get stalked or get junk email or contacts. On the other hand, you might win a really nice grill cover, and when I do contests, I often find new grill friends which is always a good thing.

Happy barbecue grilling. Good luck to all. Wish everyone could win. It's definately worth a shot. These are very nice grill covers.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Weber's Smoke Book - Ready to Make the Leap to Low and Slow?

Weber Smoking Cookbook

Here's the book I wish I'd had when I was learning how to smoke - Weber's Smoke Book: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Every Grill by Jamie Purviance.

Kim got in touch to let me know this new Weber outdoor cookbook was out and to see if I'd like to review it. Even though I'm solid on smokers, I always enjoy seeing the new grilling and smoking books on the market. I especially enjoy the Weber books, since I've loved every one so far and often end up buying copies for holiday gifts for friends and family.

The nice thing about the Weber line of cookbooks is that they are combination how-to and recipe books. Weber's Smoke is no exception. You get detailed directions with photos like below.

Easy How To Directions for All Smoker Types and Even Gas Grills

If you're familiar with smokers, you'll know this is the Weber Smokey Mountain (a bullet water smoker). If you have another kind of smoker or even want to smoke on any kind of gas grill, there are similar guides at the front of the book. So, this really is an outdoor cookbook for anyone who wants to smoke and not just for those with Weber Bullets (although I recommend Weber's and have both the 18 and 22 inch models - but also some other smoker types as well).

Outdoor smoking is low and slow versus grilling which is high heat and fast. You want to do your burgers and steaks quick (although you can smoke them), but larger cuts of meats like pork shoulders, ribs, and turkey need more time and lower temperatures. You learn how to do these classic smoker foods in Weber's Smoke and also Beer Can Chicken which is a family favorite around here.

Yes. The Neighbors Do Look When We Do This.

See. There she sits. Add the rub recipe from the book and the mesquite chips as suggested, and you have one fine bird for dinner.

If you do smoke already, you'll still find plenty of ideas and recipes in this smoker cookbook to keep you busy for quite a long time. You have red meats, poultry, and pork which are common on the smoker but also seafood and vegetables.

The guys are wanting me to try out the shrimp tacos. They were down in Florida recently and got excited about seafood tacos. So, that's a project coming up soon, and I have all the directions right at my fingertips.

The younger son is hoping I don't do the smoked artichokes, but I know I'd love them. He just thinks artichokes are too much work (for a small bite) and not all that yummy. Maybe he'll grow into them especially if he tries smoked ones.

The Guys Are Wanting to Try Out These Delicious Looking Smoked Shrimp Tacos

Also on my bucket list is the jerky. I've been planning to make jerky for years now, but I just never get around to it. That may be because I can buy super jerky from Janie at House of Jerky. Still, I want to, at least once, turn out a big batch of home smoked jerky. The Peppery Beef Jerky looks like just the ticket. Maybe I can make my jerky to celebrate finishing up the semester.

Sitting Here Wanting Some Homemade Beef Jerky

On second thought, I may have to fire up the smoker and make that jerky sooner. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it and looking at the picture.

Smoked Rosemary Pork Rib Roast from Weber's Smoke Cookbook

This latest Weber cookbook is definately a thumbs up. It has easy and clear directions. It's perfect for Weber grillers but also for those who smoke with other brands and types of smokers (or even grills).

I'm sure you'll love the smoked spiced nuts in this cookbook, the slow smoked trout, and the pork rib roast you see above. That's just a few. Weber's Smoke spans from appetizers to Garlic Spoon Bread.

If you're looking for a solid and fun smoking book, this is a good one.

Now - off to fire up the smoker.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Smokee Dee's Mahogany Red BBQ Sauce Reivew

Smokee Dee's Mahogany Red BBQ Sauce

Smokee Dee and I chat on FaceBook, and he was telling me that he had his BBQ sauce ready to bottle and had made up a basic label and wanted some feedback as his sauce hits the market. Since I review a lot of barbecue sauces and call it the way I see it, he said he'd send a bottle and see what we think around here.

The bottle of barbecue sauce came in safe and sound (packing glass can be tricky). The dark textured looking label was cool looking, although I don't know if Smokee is going to stick with that one or not. I shook the sauce around a little in the bottle, and it looked and felt like a North Carolina style sauce, although Smokee hails from Michigan.

 Chicken Strips Sauced up with Smokee Dee's BBQ Sauce

We hit the red meat hard this week, so I thought I'd do some boneless skinless chicken (easy to grill and healthy). With small pieces of chicken, I sauce them before grilling. With larger cuts of chicken or other meats, then I grill until close done and then add sauce for the last 10 to 15 minutes. Otherwise the sugars in the sauce may burn and not look or taste good.

Smokee had told me that he likes his barbecue sauce best on ribs or chicken, so I test drove one on his list. It helps to know what the sauce maker usually does with his sauce. I play around with loads of grill ideas, but I like to test grill on what the barbecue person had in mind.

When I poured on Smokee Dee's Mahogany Red, it was thicker than I'd thought. It's not thick like Texas style BBQ sauce, but it's not as thin as our North Carlina sauce. I'd say it hits right between those styles on thickness.

Grilling Chicken with Smokee Dee's BBQ Sauce

I ran the chicken over charcoal. It's more work, but I do love that charcoal grilled flavor. I grew up on that, so it always reminds me of family and fun.

The chicken was smelling great. It has a sweet smell but some hints of heat. It's hard to tell for sure, so that's why I always grill for my reviews. The real proof is in how a sauce grills up.

 Chicken Hot Off the Grill with Smokee Dee's

The chicken turned out great. Smokee Dee's does have a rich, sweet flavor just like I picked up when I was grilling. There's some heat there (you can see the pepper seeds in the sauce), but it was in the mild to medium range, so I would not hesitate to serve Smokee's barbecue sauce to a mix of family and friends. I'm a heat lover, but others are not. So, I test drive first and grill with a nice balanced sauce like Smokee's or else do two batches and make sure people know which bowl or plate is the tongue burner.

Smokee did tell me that his barbecue sauce is good with a zippy rub. But, I don't mix flavors on a test grill. I could see using various rubs (and I have a lot of those) to adjust as far as heat.

My conclusion on Smokee Dee's Mahogany Red is thumbs up for a yummy barbecue sauce that could be used for any occasion or group. It was really good on the chicken, and I could picture the flavor on ribs and think that would rock. It's thick enough to get that nice sticky style for the chicken or for the ribs, and I have the sticky fingers to prove it.

Nice job Smokee and all the best with your new sauce. People need to try out small batch sauces to see what they are missing out on. You can't get these kinds of comlex flavors in the mass produced BBQ sauces in the store. Smokee Dee is on Facebook, and I'll check and see if there are other ways to get in touch and try out his barbecue sauce.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Cook Wild - Getting Creative with Food and Fire - Book Review

Food and Fire by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi

Cook Wild: Year-Round Cooking On An Open Fire (an outdoor cookbook) by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi is certainly one of the most interesting cookbooks I've seen. As a writer and reviewer, I get book copies pretty often. They are all unique in various wasy, but it's seldom that I get one that kind of needs a class of its own. Cook Wild falls in that category.

This outdoor cookbook is billed as "year-round cooking on an open fire," and they aren't just kidding. Susanne offers lots of interesting recipes using mostly all natural outdoor ingredients with a wide range of cooking techniques, going way beyond just hot dogs on a stick or Dutch ovens in a campfire.

Tomato Sauce From a Barrel Outdoors Over Fire

Now perhaps you go out in your yard and make your large batch tomato sauce in a barrel. I do not. In fact, it never crossed my mind to do so. It does sound like an interesting project, especially if home canning with family and friends.

Outdoor canned tomatoes would, or course, be more advanced. I'd say that would be the most complex recipe in the book - or the one hardest to pull off for the average person. Like anything else, I'm sure it would be easy after doing it a couple of times and getting it down.

You'd Be Surprised At All The Foods You Can Cook Outdoors Over a Fire

Cook Wild works for all skill levels, so if you're not up to fire cooking and canning tomatoes outdoors, don't worry. Suzanne has recipes and projects that work for everyone from Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts at Scout camp to gourmet campers tired of the same old camp food all the time.

Outdoor Dutch Oven Recipes

You'll find recipes that work great in Dutch ovens. Those caught my eye, since I taught outdoor cooking to Boy Scouts in the area and worked with them on several Dutch Oven recipes. Those really are easy to make, and they are yummy. I'd suggest trying out Susanne's Cowboy Beans.

Some of the techniques are classic like that while others are more unique like cooking over a straw bed and using clay cooking techniques over fire. Well, clay goes back eons, but I don't see much of that done these days. The clay cooking is similar to the ceramic grilling today like you see on the Big Green Egg, but these recipes are open fire. The food turns out great, and it's a fun skill to pick up if you like cooking outdoors.

Yes - You Can Do Bread Outdoors Over a Camp Fire

I like that Open Fire covers breads. No carb free for me. I do love bread. Susanne has several creative ways to get nice bread outdoors. I could easily make a whole meal off bread, but I try hard not to do that.

There are 100 recipes in Cook Wild, so whether you are looking for breads, meats, vegetables, or dessert, there's a little of everything and all creative and fun.

About the Author

Susanne Fischer-Rizzi is an outdoorswoman who teaches in Germany. She focuses on medicinal plants, aromatherapy, and, of course, cooking outdoors. She conducts wilderness seminars which I think would be grand fun if I lived closer.

Susanne has published twelve books, but only three of those have been released written in English, including Cook Wild which is with Frances Lincoln Publishers out of the United Kingdom. I can't read the original, but the translation works. I did not guess the book originally was in another language.

The photos in this cookbook are really great. The photographers are Sabine Mader and Ulrike Schmid. I snapped a few pages on my porch with my point and shoot (as you can see). The book does have a lot of photos which help in understanding the different techniques and outdoor dishes.

I would say this is a great outdoor cookbook for anyone really serious about going beyond the backyard grill. You won't find burgers on grates over gas here. It's a fire book.

I'd recommend Cook Wild for Scouts, RVers, campers, and for anyone who can have an open fire in the yard. Fortunately, I can and have a fire ring right off my side porch. I really appreciate having some cool new ideas and recipes for expanding our menus outdoors. Wait until the boys get home for the summer. We're going to be rocking the fire pit.

Score with Outta the Park BBQ Sauce - All Natural and All Yummy

Outta the Park BBQ Sauce - Regular and Hot

I was waiting for the weekend and a chance to crack open a bottle of Outta the Park barbecue sauce. The whole family enjoys getting to check out new sauces, and since this one is from North Carolina, we were especially curious to see how it would stack up.

Outta the Park has some pretty sweet awards including Scovies three years running, and a couple of my barbecue friends had been telling me that I should check them out.

Beth (she and her husband created this sauce) dropped an email to see if I do check out sauces and if I'd like for her to send a bottle. Good timing on that. I do review sauces when my schedule isn't maxed, and this happens to be a break week. That means lots of grilling and saucing.

Sauced Chicken with Outta the Park

I decided to go with the Outta the Park hot, since my youngest is out of town. He did not get my hot genes, so I do milder products when he's home from college. When he's away, I play with the heat.

When I opened the bottle, I picked up three scents - sweet, hot, and vinegar. They were balanced, and I was guessing that the heat level was going to be fairly low (more about that later).

This sauce is made from all natural ingredients. Like seriously all natural. Paired with my boneless skinless chicken breasts which are both healthy and super fast and easy to grill, I was looking forward to a good meal that would also be good for me and my tri levels (which get a bit high when I'm not paying attention).

All Sauced Up and Sizzling on the Grill

Since I had chicken strips, I sauced them before putting the chicken on the grill. If you use whole breasts, then wait until the last 10 minutes or so to add sauce, or the sugars will burn. Then, you'll have ugly chicken and won't be able to get the nice flavors of the barbecue sauce.

Boneless Skinless Chicken on the O Gas Tailgate Grill

I was stepping in and out checking the chicken, since it turned off cold last night. It's our spring break. Go figure. Right.

In any case, every time I stepped out, my mouth would start to water. As the BBQ sauce heated, it really did smell great.

It didn't take long before the chicken was ready to bring in the house and try. That's another nice thing about the boneless skinless chicken. Quick and easy. And, if you have a nice sauce, you get all the flavor you could ask for.

Yum! Time to Eat Our BBQ Chicken

Outta the Park definitely had that small batch fresh taste. You can actually see seasonings in the sauce and those are not chemically treated either. It's like having a barbecue sauce made yourself or by a friend.

The flavor had the balance that I mentioned when I opened the bottle. That puts Outta the Park in an interesting category - between a Kansas and North Carolina sauce. It is thicker with a natural ketchup base (but not quite as thick as most Kansas sauces), but it has that signature twang of vinegar from NC (but not so much that it freaks out people from other parts of the country where vinegar is not common).

One thing that did catch me by surprise is that Outta the Park Hot packs more heat than I would have guessed just by smelling the sauce. I found it just perfect set against the sweet notes and the hint of vinegar. It's the balance I'd like to catch on a sauce of my own.

As far as the heat, I'd say it runs just a tad hotter than grocery store sauce hot (which tends to be not very hot). If you love some bite, then go for Outta the Park hot. If not, then get the mild one. You get quality either way - just a difference in the hotness.

Thumbs up on Outta the Park. It moves to my top pick barbecue sauce list.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

North Carolina Barbecue - East and West - The Real Scoop

North Carolina Barbecue Chopped Pork Sandwich Plate

Politics. Religion. Barbecue. You can stir up a hornet’s nest if you bring up any of these topics in North Carolina. We take these things serious and to heart.

What Is North Carolina BBQ?

North Carolina BBQ is chopped (not pulled) pork on a bun in contrast to most barbecues across the country which would be beef or other meats served as a main course like ribs or brisket. Barbeque in North Carolina is, of course, more complicated than that, but that’s a good starting point.

In North Carolina – We Do NOT Barbecue

Like folks from Kansas, North Carolinians do not barbecue. We eat barbecue. Barbecue is a noun and not a verb. Putting food on the grill is called grilling. You do not barbecue hot dogs, burgers, or steak in North Carolina. You grill those. In fact, you do not barbecue anything. That’s just wrong.

Barbecue is what you put on the plate and not what you do in the yard. It’s an artisan food that locals take very personally and proud and rightfully so. We’re not talking ten minutes on the grill and off. Real North Carolina barbecue takes hours with someone getting up during the night to double check.

Someone Is Watching This Meat and For Many Hours

When you're talking North Carolina barbecue, the smoking time it ten, twelve, fourteen hours. That's why you're not going to find many of these real deal barbecue joints and why you can't get NC style barbecue all over the country. The pitmaster is going to be a really dedicated guy (or in very rare cases - a girl) who can keep the barbecue fires burning and day after day for a restaurant.

Low and Slow Over Smoke

It’s not real barbecue in North Carolina, unless the pork is cooked at low temperatures for many hours and over a wood fire. If you go behind a BBQ joint and don’t see a wood pile, then it’s not really NC barbecue. If there are spider webs on the woodpile, then you’ve been snookered. Ideally, you’ll see smoke coming out of the smoke house, although meat is not cooked around the clock. Still, you should smell that distinct wood smoke in the air.

It Takes a Lot of Wood To Keep Up a NC Wood Burner BBQ Joint

You can get some decent barbecue over gas with wood chips which is how things are going with the government regulations and wood smoking looking like a dying art, but the few wood burners left have been grandfathered in, and let’s all hope they pass the torch. It would really be a shame to lose our food heritage here in the Carolinas.

North Carolina Barbecue – East and West

In eastern North Carolina, the smoked meat is whole hog. In other words, they cook the entire pig. In the piedmont where most barbecue is called Lexington-style, shoulders are cooked down (and sometimes Boston Butts). That’s called eating high on the hog – or the better pig meat, although many will argue that the mixture with more fat and skin is better.

Western or Piedmont North Carolina Smoked BBQ Shoulder

My area is western NC shoulders. This beautiful shoulder was made by the local Lion's Club which is a yearly fundraiser. Mostly we buy shoulders, but when home smoking, we might go with a butt. That's just the top part of the shoulder. It's the same meat, but it's a smaller cut. The butt is not the real butt of the pig - that is the ham. When my boys were little, they grossed out when I said I was smoking butt, so the next time I told them it was shoulder. They loved it as long as I called it shoulder. Go figure. Now, they are older and don't care what I call it. It's all good.

Geography – A Few Miles – They Make a Difference

Speaking of eastern and western North Carolina, it really is a matter of miles. Don’t confuse western NC in terms of barbecue with the mountains where you get goodness-knows-what called barbecue. When people from North Carolina talk about eastern and western on BBQ, they are not including the western half of the state. They mean the beach area and the piedmont (or center part). The dividing line is basically Raleigh. You have the beach land band and then the west band of barbecue.

The Secret is in the Barbecue Sauce

The biggest bone of contention in North Carolina is when it comes to the barbeque sauce. Again, it’s along geographic lines. Eastern NC has vinegar sauce while the piedmont has vinegar based sauce with various levels of tomato or ketchup added. Any hint of tomato is scorned by easterners, but NC western BBQers add a little “red.”

Eastern Style BBQ Sauce at Wilber's

In either case, you have a very thin barbecue sauce very unlike Kansas barbecue sauce which is ketchup based. Both areas of North Carolina add a kick with pepper seeds, so the BBQ sauce is generally spicier than what you see bottled in the store. You look at vinegar and hot pepper seeds, and you have a nice jolt.

What’s the Best NC BBQ?

Residents of North Carolina are quite vocal about defending the local barbecue styles. It’s kind of like football. You root for your team – no matter what.

For those outside the area, it may all be Greek or so different that the subtleties are lost. There’s great barbecue both on the eastern beach side of the state and in the middle. There are also imitations, and those are not so wonderful. Just follow the smoke and see for yourself. If you find real barbecue in North Carolina, eastern or western, then you’ve found a gem and will be hooked for life.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Apple Ugly Grill Night

Apple Uglies Over Charcoal

I live in Apple Ugly country. Yes. I'm just a few miles from the Apple Baking Company where they make the world famous Uglies. OK. They aren't world famous just yet. They're more like a little Southern secret, but the company is smoking hot and getting those Uglies out to more people. And, for those who can't find them local, the company sells Uglies online.

I've written about Apple Uglies before, because I love them and because I had high school buddies who worked there back in the day. It's a small world (especially in a small town), so my new co-worker's husband is Dave Bates, CEO of Apple Baking Company. He was kind enough to let my Writing for Media class tour the factory where friends and neighbors whip up these delicious bakery treats. And, he sent me home with some Apple Uglies. Thanks!

You all know what I do with food. Yes. On the grill. The grill was gray coal hot and just perfect for adding dessert to the menu. I put the Uglies on and grate marked them, flipped them, and had them on the table in a couple of minutes. These buns are already cooked, so it's just a matter of heating them up and getting a hint of smoke flavor.

Whoa boy; grilled Apple Uglies rock. I've always enjoyed them right out of the pack, but the charcoal gave them a great kick. You know I love my smoke.

Apple Ugly Hot Off the Grill - Yum

If you're trying to figure out what Apple Uglies are, then think of a baked treat the size of a honey bun and packed like that but more like fritters and lumpy bumpy (hence the name Uglies). Each Apple Ugly looks a little different, because they are not mass produced in the typical way. Now, I can't tell you how to make them, or I will be kicked out of town for sure. Just trust me that there are some great people in the bakery working hard to make special treats that you can't find just everywhere.

Working the Dough

If you're looking for Apple Uglies, then here's what they look like in the store. They come in several flavors - all yummy.

My class got to try hot Blueberry and Raisin Uglies right off the line. We also got to see the cake line being made and baked. The lady who makes the Apple Baking Company cakes has been doing this for 25 years. Those are sold by the whole cake, half, or slices. My favorite is the Cheerwine cake. Cheerwine is a local soft drink from my town, and Cheerwine cake is really pretty with a unique flavor. It's kind of a cherry cola but not quite and better than that combination. You'd just have to try it to see what I mean.

Dave Bates, Apple Baking Company CEO, and my Writing for Media Students

It was a fun week - a trip to Apple Baking Company and then hot grilled Apple Uglies. Hard to beat that.