Sunday, March 29, 2009

Everything is off the cooker and looking great. First up is pulled pork. Here's a picture of the butt Before I pulled it. There is a little sauce painted on it.

Here is a picture of the pulled pork. I add seasonings and sauce to the pulled product to give it that special something that the judges seem to like.

I didn't take any pictures of the whole brisket but here's a picture of one sliced. The new marinade was a tad on the salty side but I think I'm headed in the right direction. The briskets came out moist and tender.

Here's a picture of a sandwich made from the scraps that are left on the cutting board after slicing. Mmmm mmmm Good !

I'm working on my photo skills trying to improve my composition. I'm pretty new to the world of photography and I know I have a lot of room for improvement. I must say though the ribs were very tasty and I would be proud to turn them in at any competition.

The salad in the background is broccoli slaw. I first had this at the Harpoon competition at the Meddling Kids site. Very tasty and a nice change from regular coleslaw.

All in all a very successful cook. I was able to compare some rubs and sauces side by side which is not something you really want to do at a competition. You should always go in with a plan and try to stick to it.

Yes I'm really cooking

Barbecue is a long slow process (at least the way I cook it is). The weather started out Warm and sunny yesterday when I was running around purchasing meat, then it turned cold and foggy as I was preparing to put the meat on the cooker. Now it's cold and rainy and the meat is chugging along.

I put the ribs on at 7:15 and wrapped the Butts and Briskets around 9:00 am. I'm working on a new brisket marinade loosely based on Rick's Sinful marinade that I put in the foil when the briskets are wrapped.

More Later...

Friday, March 27, 2009


Practicing is just not something I do on a normal basis or at all really. Not that I don't see any value in it, but it's hard to set aside the time to cook bbq for 10 to 12 hours. I'm usually too busy or too lazy to commit the time.

This weekend I need to cook some bbq for a party so I'm going to use the cook as a contest practice run. I've been struggling with brisket a little lately so I will pay particular attention to that. I'll use a couple of different rubs and sauces and hopefully come up with a winning combination.

In Arkansas my brisket ended up being overcooked. When I took the meat off the cooker and put it in a cambro (insulated box) to stay warm, the brisket was definitely not overcooked. I think it overcooked in the cambro because I had it loaded with more meat then I normally do. The Arkansas contest had $50,000 in prize money so I thought it was worth cooking extra meat to try to get an edge on the competition. I think my decision to do that cost me in the end. I don't think cooking the extra meat was a bad decision but loading it all in the same cambro was, it may be time to invest in a second one.

I'll try to post some pictures of my progress this weekend but don't expect to see a lot about my recipes or techniques. The team is looking at schduling a class sometime this spring so if your interested in attending keep an eye on our website

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Snowshoe Results

We got one call at the Snowshoe for 2nd place fatty and ended up coming in 3rd overall losing by 3.5 point or so. There was only a .5 point spread separating the first and second place teams ! It was a little cold and windy all day but the sun made up for it. I forgot to bring my camera so I thought I would post some pictures from an old Snowshoe that was held at the Concord Junction Brewing company, the original site of the contest. It was fun to see that several of the teams that competed this year were also there back in the day. I hope you enjoy them.

2009 Snowshoe Results

Grand Champion
Wildwood BBQ-NYC

Reserve Grand Champion

3 - I Smell Smoke!!!
4 - Transformer BBQ
5 - Porkaholics


1 - QHaven
2 - Uncle Jed
3 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
4 - Insane Swine BBQ
5 - Shoe City Smokers

Pork Tenderloin

1 - Transformer BBQ
2 - IQue
3 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
4 - Dr. Frankenswine
5 - Lakeside Smokers


1 - Smokey O's
2 - I Smell Smoke!!!
3 - IQue
4 - Transformer BBQ
5 - Insane Swine BBQ


1 - Porkaholics
2 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
3 - Garden State Porkway
4 - Boneyard Smokers
5 - Transformer BBQ

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grilling vs BBQ contests

This weekend we will be competing in the Snowshoe Grilling Challenge. Grilling contests are popular here in the Northeast but they are a whole different beast from a barbecue competition. The entry fees are normally much lower but the cost of the meat and spices are higher. If the category is steak do you want to be the guy cooking bottom round when the competition is cooking filet migon ? Of course not so that's going to drive the price of competing up. But then you have to think if 8 teams are cooking filet do you want to try to cook the best filet or try to stand out a little by cooking a ribeye. Now for your ribeye to stand up to their filet it may be necessary to purchase prime beef so again the cost jumps up.

Since the entry fees are lower then it follows that the prize money is also lower. Your mindset going into a grilling contest has to be that your doing it for the plastic trophy. Your not going to come out ahead money wise and you may even be lucky just to break even. So why do we do it ? Some say it's a sickness others a passion for competitions but I like to think it's for the enjoyment. We like the people that come to these contests and we enjoys spending time with them. Most of us also share a passion for cooking, and grilling let's us show that bbq is not the only thing we can do.

In a bbq competition there is a lot of time spent waiting. You put your meat on the cooker and just let it do it's thing for x amount of hours. That leaves a lot of time for socializing and hanging out. In grilling there is a lot more prep and a lot less time to do it in. We arrive at the contest site, set up, prep meat and then start grilling. That doesn't mean we don't socialize. I like to use a hit and run technique. With my trusty camera in hand I'll try to visit all the teams, sometimes before we start grilling and sometimes between categories. I've even caught a team prepping their box for the wrong entry and tried to save them from a dq. We also like to shout friendly jabs from our site to a neighboring team, it's all in fun afterall.

I like to joke around with people that grilling competitions are too much like stir fry and there's way too much jumping around but the fact is I have a lot of fun at these contests. Oh and I also happen to enjoy Stir Fry.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arkansas continued...

Charlie put the ribs on earlier in the morning and they were looking good, the briskets seemed to be cooking on their normal schedule. At this point it was my job to get the chicken ready to go on the cooker and prep some sauces and marinades/flavorizers we use during our cooking process. Things were going smoothly after I prepped the chicken so I decided it was time to start rattling the neighbors.I find a camera always helps to put people on edge. I hit the Pellet Envy site to our left and the Transformers to the right. Poor Julie and Brendan had a number of people pushing their buttons during one step of their rib process. It was pretty funny from my vantage point.

Brent Richardson volunteered to help us out for the day so I put him on Garnish duty with Carmen and Carlotta. Appearance doesn't count as much as taste and tenderness but it can be the difference between winning a contest and coming in second place. I knew I could trust Brent because he's been cooking bbq with his mom and The Slabs since he was knee high to a grasshopper. He's even competed on his own and has a very distinguished record in Kids Q events.

The next couple of hours of the event are a blur. Chicken on, ribs wrapped, brisket off, ribs off, chicken turn in etc... Brent was a big help in doing the box presentation. He helped us strategically place parsley to get the best look, and he even helped Charlie and I with the tasting of the entries and the adjustment of spices. I was happy with 3 out of our 4 entries, the brisket I knew was a bit overcooked. Maybe I should have taken them off the cooker when I took the Butts
off but they didn't seem done to me at that point. Oh well live and learn. I had 3 briskets, maybe I should have taken them off in stages. In the early part of the season you need to get a feel for things, your instincts get a little rusty. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it)

After turn in it's time for cleanup. I Smell Smoke is usually one of the last teams to leave an event but we had early flights in the morning and Charlie and Carlotta needed to get back on the road so we bucked up and got the job done in record time. In fact the wait for awards seemed to take forever.

At the awards ceremony we ended up next to the Illinois contingent of cooks. The night before they had stopped by our sight for a drink and the Smack Talk was rolling. The subject of Jack Qualifiers came up and they seemed to be of the opinion it was easy for a New England team to qualify because we had and I quote "Little contests with only one qualifier in a state". I'm not really big on the Smack talk thing before I've even cooked my food and turned it in so I just let their comments roll off my back. I figured we'd see who had the right to talk Smack after the award ceremony.

We placed 14th in Chicken ($150), 19th in Ribs ($100), 18th in Pork($100) and 8th Overall ($700), so the bulk of our expenses were covered. If we can break close to even on a big contest like this we are very happy. I overcooked the Brisket and it placed 47th, if I had not done that we were definitely in the running for Grand champ being one of only a few teams that got 3 calls to the stage. We only got beat by 1 Illinois team and I don't remember them talking smack at my site, at least not to me.

We had a lot of fun and I'm sure we'll make the trip again next year (if I can get Charlie and Carlotta to drive again).

This weekend we will be competing in the Snowshoe Grilling challenge in Abington MA.

Little Rock Arkansas

When I Smell Smoke travels to a distant contest there is usually a whole lot of planning involved, not so for Little Rock Arkansas. On February 2nd I received an ad for the contest in my email and forwarded it to the rest of the team thinking I'd get a reply along the lines of "Yeah Right". Instead I get reply from Carlotta saying "Are you driving ?" and then one from Charlie saying "I'll Drive !". A few emails and a few days later the next thing I knew I was sending in the $350 dollar entry fee for a contest 1446 miles from home. Charlie, Carlotta and Carmen driving and me flying. Somewhere along the line we talked Transformer BBQ into making the trip too, I think their decision was even more spur of the moment than ours was. Rather than having two vehicles drive almost 1500 miles from New England to Arkansas we agreed to take their equipment in our trailer so they could fly out.

The flights to Arkansas were uneventful, the drive on the other hand was a mix of rain sleet and snow all the way from Fitzwilliam NH to Little Rock Arkansas. Even so there were no complaints from our 'Drive Team' when they hit the hotel. We all hit a Mexican Restaurant called Cozy Mels (I know Cheesy name) that turned out to be a great place to eat. We were joined by The Slabs and Smoke on Wheels bbq teams and a good time was had by all.

The weather for the weekend was rainy and in the high 30's to low 40's for the entire weekend. If the contest was a week earlier we would have been cooking in 80 degree sunny weather. Oh well that was out of our control so we just bundled up and dealt with it. Friday night The Slabs organized a St. Paddy's themed potluck which ended up being held on our site due to space constraints. Smoked Corned beef, cabbage with smoked sausage, bacon explosion potatoes, Reuben dip, steak soup, Irish stew, Baileys and Cream, Pizza, Green desserts, Green Soda, lots of beer and some beef sandwiches from Chicago made for a great spread. Thanks to all who attended we enjoyed your food and your company.

I slept through my alarm the next morning and woke up just in time for the potluck breakfast. Steph from The Slabs made Italian Strata and Grit Bake Casserole and there were some Krispy Kreme donuts that they were giving away somewhere on the contest grounds. There may have been more food but I was a little out of it and couldn't really say. I checked on my BBQ and my Pork Butts were done ! Uh oh. I was a little embarrassed pulling my meat off the cooker that early with so many eyes around the site but I had to get those Butts off before they cooked any further. I put them in the cambro but left the door open for a little while so the internal temp on the butts would drop and they would not continue to cook.

to be continued...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fresh off a win and heading to Little Rock Arkansas

(Steve not shown was the official photographer that day)

The team competed at the BBQ Bailout March 1st and walked away with the title of Grand Champion. It was a small event organized by 3 cooks jonesing to get out there and compete after a long snowy winter. 13 teams competed in the categories of chicken, sausage, flank Steak and Ribs, making it a grilling and bbq hybrid contest. We placed 2nd in chicken, 1st in sausage, 3rd in flank steak and 7th in ribs.

Our next stop on the 2009 bbq tour is Little Rock Arkansas, where130 teams will be competing for $50,000 in prize money. The last time we competed in Arkansas we placed 10th overall. We're hoping to top that this time around, wish us luck.