Indianapolis, IN 4-11-15

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“Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it”

This past weekend was our first competition of the year and this first one in about 10 months. So to think we felt a bit rusty and a bit anxious, was an understatement. This competition was a 1st year event and when I signed up, hoped it wouldn’t be too stacked with top teams. It is located in an area of several great teams, but I still crossed my fingers that may have had other plans. No such luck, 39 teams signed up for this event and 38 of them seem to be able to win on any given weekend. This was a field of competitors that I would be happy to hear my name called just once in. This was going to be a competition that the littlest of details would make or break you from getting called.

Leading up to the event I managed to injure my right knee, possibly tore my Meniscus, and was hobbling around pretty good. This is not a good thing for a competition, considering I may have a 2-3 minute uninjured walk ahead of me. I waited a few days and without a lot of relief in the soreness I asked the organizer if I could possibly get placed closed to the turn in area. Without a question they said they would work something out. The only thing, I earned a nickname, “Meniscus”.

Our drive to the CCS Springfest and BBQ Competition was nothing short of a pain in my butt, the wind was ridiculous and pushed us all over the road for the 1 1/2 hour drive.  I couldn’t wait to pull in to the competition and relax. We pulled in and were the 3rd team to arrive on Thursday night. I tried to play the “1st team to arrive onsite has to buy dinner for the rest of the teams that night” card on Pappy Q, but I seemed to have been a little late for dinner. I’ll drive faster next time.

Aaron was on site to guide us to our spot and give us the run down. This event was sounding like it was going to be one to remember and to be talked about for a while. The teams were going to be treated like kings and queens. If you needed something all you had to do was ask. Friday was going to consist of a continental breakfast, snack area, sandwich lunch table and a prime rib dinner served on china by servers. We didn’t have to leave our seats to get anything.

We decided not to set up our site until the wind died down as we didn’t want to start a canopy graveyard. The winds, despite what WU reported, had to have been 15 mph with frequent 25 mph gusts. They were literally rocking the motorhome because we are currently unable to lower our stabilizer jacks, thank you again to Bob Ellis for spending your afternoon trying to locate the problem and finally getting the jacks to retract.

So Thursday night was a relax night and to watch who we were going to be neighbors with. It tuns out that the area we were setup in was “Michigan Alley”

20150411_071600

everyone of the teams along this area, is from Michigan. Guess I should have mentioned I was from Illinois when I asked to have a spot near turn ins.

The team in front of us was Smokin’ Aces and had a sticker on their trailer that made me chuckle, because he asked how close he could get to us.

too close

Friday morning started our day of the competition routine. Normally we pull everything out and set up our canopy, awning, banners and tables, but the wind was still punishing us. We agreed that we would hold off on any set up until it died down. According to the weather reports that would be late at night or early Saturday morning. It wasn’t too big of a deal, as I had most of the trim work already done before arriving. We ended up spending most of the day inside sheltering ourselves from the temps and the wind. **Note, remember to bring a jacket and/or sweatshirt when the weather is forecasted to be cold and windy.

Lunch was served with a variety of sandwiches. It was pretty much an eat what you want lunch.

Lunch table

Cook’s meeting was @ 5pm and then a top notch (or as my wife called it, a romantic BBQ competition dinner) Prime rib dinner @ 6:30pm

20150410_175304 Dinner

The only thing missing were candles. During the dinner the organizer handed out a few small useful prizes. Our name was called for one of them. I really hoped that wasn’t the “This was a field of competitors that I would be happy to hear my name called just once in” wish coming true. I should be a bit more specific in my wishes next time.

After dinner we hurried back to the site to start the prepping of the meats. Normally we do this outside, but as it was the wind was still howling. If only the wind would die out, this would be a perfect night. I figured my other wish came true maybe the wind wish would come true also.

But for the time being we needed to improvise. I got the idea that a folding table would fit in the kitchen area of the motorhome and figured we’d give it a shot and see. Guess what?

20150410_150431 20150410_150445

BAM!!! I have an indoor prep area. Not how I would do it all the time, but when the weather won’t cooperate we have an alternate plan.

Well, low and behold, my wind wish did come true late in the night. The wind died out and the fire began. To my surprise the pit heated up quickly and the meat was on on time.

For those of you that compete, take note that the Michigan boys have a Michigan Offense if you didn’t know. Around 0:dark 30, while catching a short nap in between feeding the fire, I hear what sounds like a digital thermometer going off only it sounded like it as in our bedroom. Well one thing was accurate, it was in our bedroom just not a thermometer. It was our carbon monoxide detector going off. Funny how the two of those items sound identical. The inside of the motorhome smelled like charcoal burning so I walked outside to investigate. Sure enough Smokin’ Aces had started their pit up and without the wind blowing, the smoke was hovering low and around our site. Well played Mark, well played. So after trying to shut the alarm up, opening the vents and confirming that the detectors are hardwired. I had to turn off all the power to the motorhome to reset it. Problem fixed. *** Note next time a Michigan team asks if the can park close to you, check to see where their exhaust is facing.

Back to taking my naps.

Later on in the morning, I was standing by my pit talking with one of our neighbors, Cal Coop. I hear someone’s thermometer going off and chuckle a bit thinking, someone needs to wake up and check their meat. After thinking for a while I am reminded that our carbon monoxide detector sounds like that. Sure enough it was me, again. Good thing I was there, because my wife was out like a light and never heard it going off. So once again, vent the area and reset the detector. Damn you Michigan boys and your offense.

Other than the big meats starting off by cooking somewhat fast and nearly being poisoned by CO, the morning went well. I even got the chance to attend a cook’s church service, which was a nice addition. We decided not to set up the canopy and only had a table out to work off of. Ribs cooked a bit fast and luckily we caught it in time to hopefully salvage them.

Turn ins began and the only meat that really made us happy was our chicken. Everything else seemed to not be our best. Ribs tasted average, not bad just not a WOW! Our box contained ribs from only 1 slab. The others seemed to still be a bit overcooked. Pork started off with a money muscle sample, but there seemed to be an after taste that was off and we decided not to add it in and had to make a box with chunks only. The brisket flat was too tender and the burnt ends were great. We struggled to find the slices that we could use.

As always it was a relief to get that last box turned in and to know that there wasn’t much cleaning up to do.

It seemed like it took forever for the 4:30 awards to start, once they began the anxiety really hits and the hopes that I didn’t burn my wish for a call too early.

As the awards were called out it was odd not hearing some teams that you’d expect to hear called. It seemed like there were very few that received multiple calls and it made it hard to guess who would win it. The exception was team Hug Hogs, with 3 calls. Looking back through it there were some others with multiple calls, but it seemed it was all over the place.

At the end of it all what we thought was a bad cook turned out to be a pretty decent one.

Chicken 16th place – 168.0000

Ribs 8th place – 170.8456 (woohoo and heck yeah, that is a call and an award) From somewhere in the crowd I heard “Way to go Meniscus!”

Pork 17th place – 164.5600

Brisket 20th place – 164.5256

Overall 13th place – 667.9312

8th place ribs indy

The kicker of it all? Had we paid a bit more attention to the little details we could have had an overall top 10 call. Our appearance scores prevented it. But for us being rusty and our first event of the year, I am totally happy and walked away holding my head high with our results. We’re steadily making our way up the ranks and will soon be a team that others see and think “Damn ’82’s BBQ Crew’ signed up”.

This is an event that I hope we get to return to every year. Really had a blast with the volunteers. They were a great bunch of people that went out of their way to make everyone feel important and valued. Next year I predict they may have to turn teams away.

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Is “Pre-Comp anxiety” a real diagnosis?

So here we are looking into the future of this year’s BBQ competition season. I am trying not to plan too far in advance and more or less take it one weekend at a time. I’m not going to try and let it consume each available weekend, unless of course we are on a hot streak but we’ll look at that if it happens. It is always a basket full of emotions and feelings. There are plenty of laughs and jokes. Friendly razzing and lending of hands. There are even a fair share of disappointments as well. Take all of that and you have a bit of anxiety.

anx·i·e·ty
aNGˈzīədē/
noun
 
  1. a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

It’s the moments that lead up to the first competition of the year that really seem to sit heavy on me and have my mind going 100 mph trying to sort everything out. Sleep? HA! I may do that, but the quality isn’t always the greatest.

I have tried to prepare for this competition a little bit at a time so as to not overdo it and take it easy, but that still isn’t working. Just thinking about the level of competition at this event is crazy. Hearing our name called could easily be missed by a small fraction of a point.

Taking this to my mind, has made my appetite unpredictable. Feel hungry but can’t think of anything to eat. Plus, I think I have been visiting the bathroom more times than a food poisoning victim that caught the flu and drank a laxative by mistake.

The good news is that these symptoms do seem to settle down as the year goes along.

So if there are any Psychiatrist out there looking to do a paper on something new, get a hold of me, I might just make you famous.

Every opinion comes with a consequence

I have always said that the BBQ community is full of great people. They always seem to be willing to help the other guy, whether he is a friend or a stranger. I have seen this through volunteering with Operation BBQ Relief and within the world of BBQ Competitions. Cooks are willing to give of themselves so that the other guy has a fair chance and usually not ask for anything in return.
I have even given of myself to help a local guy get up and running. This may have only been from providing advice and supporting him while he was vending, but advice can be a valuable bit of help. I did this even as I was operating a catering and sauce company. I never did this to get anything in return, but truly wanted to help what I thought was a decent guy succeed with his dream.

Yesterday, I was hit with a bit of reality as to the character of this guy and subsequently ended my ties/”friendship” with him and no longer will support his business.

While I was scrolling through Facebook I noticed a conversation that he was apart of. Someone had accused him of not cleaning up a softball field after he used it. Through the numerous heated replies the following comments were made:

“I don’t owe soldiers nothing B***h”

“The military huh?? F**k the military b***h”

There was also comments made about soldiers deserving PTSD because they volunteered for the military.

Now I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and just because I don’t agree with it doesn’t make it wrong. But I also believe that you should be ready to accept the consequences of those opinions.

The owner of the business is Justin Shaw and the business name is Dogg Pound BBQ out of Covington IN. Please pass this information along those that have served proudly in our military as I would hate for Justin to benefit financially from a group of people that he has so little respect for.

What a difference a breed makes.

If you spend any time around a competition cook it won’t be long before the topic of brisket and what grade to use. Then add into that discussion what breed of cattle to shop for. You’ll get a wide variety of answers depending on who you talk to.

When we started competing I gave myself a very small budget. If it wasn’t necessary it wasn’t being purchased. This was even applied to the meats. I showed up basically with the bare minimum (1 choice brisket, 1-2 commodity butts, 2 slabs of spare ribs and 10-12 thighs). Looking back I can see this as a bit risky, one small screw up and the cook was over.

Recently the conversation of Wagyu beef came up again and is it really worth the cost. It’s a hard cost to swallow, pun intended, when compared to the price of prime and even more so, choice beef. I take in a lot of advice and sort though any bias and try to come to a reasonable decision. That decision was made a bit easier when Snake River Farms changed their pricing and shipping. It sits a bit easier when shipping is only $9.99 compared to $30 or more. So I pulled the trigger and placed an order. My plan was to cook a SNF brisket against a prime using the identical methods and flavors. This would be the only way to truly tell if there was a difference.

The wagyu arrives already wet aged for 28 days, so that matches up pretty close to the prime’s wet age time that I put it through. It did arrive frozen so a few more days in the refrigerator were need. I ordered the 11-14 lb range briskets.

I was impressed right out of the box. Both were in the 13 LB range and the marbling was amazing. The flats looked a bit on the thin side. There have been several people voice their displeasure with the thickness of the flats, but I have also heard that they tend to thicken up while cooking.

brisket 1

 

I opened up the packaging on both test briskets and again was impressed with the Wagyu. Very little excess fat on the meat side. The color was amazing. It was bright red and looked like it was freshly cut off of the cattle.

brisket 3

I then did the same with the Prime. (Note: this was a rejected brisket from our competition selection based on it’s size. It was an 8.71 LB and looked to be missing a good chunk of the flat.) Huge difference in the amount of fat. The color was more of a purple color.

brisket 4

 

I planned on an 8 hour cook using 1 UDS. I like to get some sleep every now and then. This would hopefully have the briskets done by lunch time. I had also been advised by a few cooks to watch the Wagyu as it likes to cook pretty fast and cook it hotter than you normally would. The temp suggestion kinda disappointed me as my UDS holds a temp of 250 without any problems. At 3 am the meat went on, with my new Thermoworks oven thermometer and it’s a good thing to.

The plan was to wake up at 7 to check on them and wrap. Leslie woke up at 6 to let the dogs out and noticed the temp on the small prime brisket was at 205.

Holy crap!!!! a 3 hour brisket how is that possible? I know the Wagyu would cook faster but not the prime. I guess the prime felt like showing off and tried to act like a Wagyu. That’s fine as long as it tastes better.

brisket 6

It’s possible because I am assuming with all the fat dripping off it must have spiked the temp to 325. Go thing the Wagyu was only at 170.

brisket 5

I went ahead and wrapped the Wagyu and planned for another few hours before worrying about it.

WRONG AGAIN!!!!! 7:30 am and the Waygu is done at 210.

brisket 7

Well I guess they’ll just have to rest a bit longer.

Now it comes down to the bread and butter of it all. How did they compare to each other?

Prime – The point was perfectly tender, but the flat seemed to be a bit tough. Flavor was about typical, except for the burning grease smoke flavor in the background. It wouldn’t have been an issue on the offset.

Wagyu – The point still needed about another hour or so, but the flat was perfect. Laid over the finger with a bit of separation. The flat did thicken up to about 1 1/2 – 2 inches. The flavor was outstanding. Great beef flavor without the pot roast flavor. Very moist.

Sorry I didn’t get pictures of the finished products.

So with that said would I switch to Wagyu? You betcha, as long as the budget allows it and the payout justifies it. I’ll try another one in the offset to try and get a better time on it while maintaining the temp a tad better.

Starting a different kind of fire

Here I go again, with another BBQ idea.

It all started with me needing to end my competition season early and for an unknown length of time. It was always said in the beginning that if it was no longer fun then it wasn’t worth doing. Unfortunately the fun of it left my family this year. It’s still something that I will consider/want to pick back up in the future, so I am not out forever, just not sure when.

So with that, it has left me with a lot of free time to think about BBQ. You can take me out of it, but you can’t take it out of me.

One of the many thoughts that I had was “Why isn’t there a website that rates BBQ competitions?”. Also, we is it that I always seem to type ‘comeptitions’ instead of ‘competitions’. Go back and see how many times I have typed that word, that is how many times I’ve corrected it.

OK back on track. It amazes me that teams had to rely on word of mouth, from hopefully a reliable and honest team as to what an event was like. All it could possibly take for a competition to lose teams, is one team with a large following to speak bad of that event. When actually it may have been a great event it but that team just happened to be in a bad spot.

So I have taken the initiative and came up with a rating system that is weight based and comes from teams filling out a short survey after they attend an event.

I hope this takes off and get huge, as I am already thinking about 300 steps ahead of where I am at now. Not sure that my wife will appreciate it as much as I will though.

If you are a team, or know a team competing, please take a moment to take the survey after you compete. It will hopefully be a huge win for everybody.

Quincy, IL 6/21/14

There is something to be said when a 3.5 hour drive is a close competition.

This past weekend we competed in Quincy IL considering the previous drives I was actually looking forward to it. I was excited not to have to rush as much getting there. After all it was going to be hot and humid and the RV was pretty comfortably temped while driving.

We left town at about 9 and only had to make a few stops before we were officially on the road. I still needed to pick up butter, chicken breasts and apple juice from the store. As well as stuff to eat for dinner. Then needed to fill up on gas and dump our waste water tanks.

So after getting the apple juice, chicken breasts and stuff for dinner we started driving out of town. It turns out we were driving with a shadow. That shadow just so happened to have a badge and a light bar. So we had an unplanned delay. I instantly felt defensive because I knew we hadn’t broken any laws. The only thing I could think of, from reading about other team’s experiences, is this officer felt that I probably wasn’t properly licensed to drive the RV while towing my trailer.

As the officer walked up I had my license out and window down, letting the cool air out. He proceeded to tel me that he didn’t need that and that he just wanted to take a look at my cooker.

Are you freaking kidding me?

Well to say the least I was a bit relieved and kinda felt a bit important. He even knew who we were and said that he and a friend were going to compete in Danville. It never gets old answering questions, even if it puts us a little behind schedule.

So after getting back in my son thought it was hilarious and was taking pictures through the rear view camera and mirrors. In case you couldn’t tell he can be quite the funny guy.

Nothing to see here

Nothing to see here

We get to the gas station fill up and go to dump our tanks. As I am getting ready to unscrew the drain cap, I remember that I was having a hard time pushing the black tanks closure in all the way. I SLOOOOWLY start to unscrew the cap and notice immediately I was about to have a major problem. Yup brown liquid started to flow out.

I immediately closed the cap as the thought of a horrible movie scene entered my mind.

Rethinking my strategy I attacked the problem with the skill of a ninja. No major spills and the tanks got emptied.

This drive was pretty much a straight shot, but boring as can be. I am pretty sure no one lives between Jacksonville and Quincy IL. They just put seeds in the ground and leave. Heck they don’t even have decent cell service, much less radio stations.

As we arrived we got set up and tried to get motivated to begin working. Even the A/C wasn’t motivated.

After a late cook’s meeting and a much appreciated provided dinner, the prep work got done. I even enjoyed a bit of a nap before firing up the cooker.

The next morning things were going smooth until I trimmed the ribs. It was then that I remembered that I had forgot something from the store. Maybe you caught it, if you said butter you’d be correct.

Good thing competition teams are generous, Peter Wright with Lion Bout The Que, gave us a tub to use. Now I just wish I could have remembered to have injected my chicken.

The rest of the cook went alright, but it seemed like I just couldn’t get into my groove. It was like I was 5 minutes behind and not real fluid. It may have just been the heat taking a toll on me. Whatever the case I didn’t feel like it was going to be my best cook.

After the last turn in we got started immediately on preparing to leave and were done in about 1 hour. What a relief. That gave me about a 1 hour break to rest. I figured I’d get up around 3:30 and head over for the 4:00 awards.

Well apparently we didn’t get the message that they were starting awards at 3:15 instead. I probably should have figured something was up as we were the only team outside at around 3:30.

We made it to awards in time to hear the 4th place overall winner announced.

Kinda disappointing to not be a part of it, even though our name wasn’t called.

In the end we didn’t do as good as we hoped, but we didn’t do bad either.

Out of 25 teams we finished

12th in chicken – pretty sure had I injected we would have gotten a call

14th in ribs – 3 slabs, 3 different stages of doneness, again

19th in pork – scratching my head on this one, thought we had a pretty good product

13th in brisket – didn’t dip my slices before boxing.

15th overall – just goes to show that I need to think about everything I am doing.

I looked over the scores and was frustrated with myself because I saw that had I had more of an average cook we could have easily received a call or two.