Monday, September 1, 2014

Bedford Blues and BBQ 2014

sampled 8/31/14
This was the 5th straight year I have judged at the Bedford Blues and BBQ KCBS cookoff.  Previously this had been considered the KCBS State Championship, but I think they moved that out to El Paso this year.  KCBS only has a handful of events in Texas and they are still trying to build up all of the events they do have.  I'm not sure if moving of the State Championship was a factor, but the number of teams was down a bit this year compared to last.  I think there were 76 teams this year compared to more than 90 in 2013. 

The smaller number of teams combined with the continuing interest in certified BBQ judge training classes finally produced the problem I have seen coming for several years.  KCBS had way more certified judges than they needed for this year's event.  That meant a lot of folks who came to judge were unable to judge, but helped out in other volunteer positions or just got their book signed and went home.  The judging class the previous day had 65 students.  That's a BIG class. It looked like only about 10 folks from the Saturday class were in the judging room and I have no idea how many showed up and then went home.  Many may have also been cooks taking the class to learn what judges look for.  That happens a lot and seems like a good idea for anyone who wants to compete in KCBS contests.  

The City of Bedford has leased out the old library to a new tenant so we were relegated to a small conference room inside the main building.  We were spoiled in previous years with that big open library space and they were just able to squeeze in 13 tables to the space available.  Barely.  The tenants were kind enough to let Bedford used that space and they didn't have to do that.  We were lucky indeed to be inside with some air conditioning instead of outside in a tent.  I don't know what KCBS and Bedford will do if they have more than 80 cooks next year.  I don't think that space will hold more than 13 tables of judges.

Ralph and Karen were back again as lead reps from KCBS with Larry and a good crew to help out.  Things started off with an introduction from Ralph and then they started the usual game of musical chairs.  Couples were separated and the mix of master judges and newbies were moved around to try to get as equitable a distribution as possible.  For the first time I can remember they actually had 13 trained Table Captains and no one had to do "double duty" of both judging and Table Captain.  As usual there were judges from all over the place including Pennsylvania and Florida.
After some additional discussion of rules and procedures, we took the "BBQ Oath" and sat down to await the first food samples.

As usual I can't say a lot about the food because KCBS is worried about judges or their process being compromised.  I think that is a smart thing because it is all about giving the cooks a fair and equal chance when there are thousands of dollars worth of prize money involved.  As usual, each table received 6 samples of each meat which were scored individually by each judge.  The food I had was about what I usually get at these contests.  I had one piece of chicken I thought was pretty good.  Much of the rest had such a thick coating of sauce that they dripped when you picked them up.  I had a couple of decent ribs, nothing great.  Again, many were really heavy on the sauce department which just says to me they're scared their meat can't cut it.  The only 999 score on meat I gave all day came in the pulled pork category for outstanding smoke flavor, moistness, and tenderness.  I am not really a huge pulled pork fan but that was some good stuff.  Brisket was a disappointment, as it usually is in this contest.  Many of the boxes had heavily "painted" slices.  Never a good sign.  One slice was so tough it completely failed the pull-apart test.  You could stretch it like an accordion but it would not break.  Yikes.    Anyone need to make a slingshot?  A couple of pieces were OK roast beefy brisket with decent tenderness and moisture, but that was about it.

After the main meats were completed, 5 tables of judges stuck around to sample beans, sauce, and that most treasured of all food groups, dessert.  Most of the judges headed off voluntarily, having completed their duties to qualify towards masters level.  I always fast the day before so I can stick around.  There wasn't anything exceptional in the bean category but several tried some wild styles to try to stand out.  Three of the 4 sauces I tried were just nasty and the other was just average.  We received 4 desserts to try and 3 of the 4 were fantastic.  I can't say a thing about the desserts because each was very unique.  All I can say is I am very happy I stuck around to judge that category.  :)

Overall I had a great time, as I do every year at this contest.  I have never made it out to another KCBS contest but I look forward to this every year because it is so much fun.  To you cooks out there, please know that the judges take their job very seriously and there is a lot of slow and deliberate consideration on every bite of every sample we get.  Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to all the volunteers and KCBS reps that make this annual contest such a fun event.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pecan Lodge and Snow's from the fridge

sampled 8/22/14
Warmed up some Pecan Lodge and Snow's last night for dinner and still have a smile on my face the next day.  The brisket from Pecan Lodge was perfect.  The fat was melt-in-your-mouth and the tenderness and moisture survived the fridge just fine in a sealed plastic bag.  The smoke flavor was deep and long lasting.  I had inside fatty slices from Pecan Lodge as you can see from the photos below.
I started carving from the lean end of the Snow's brisket and it is a bit dry but very tasty.  Good smoke flavor, too.  I suspect that will moisten up as I get further into that whole brisket. The sausage was excellent with great beef flavor but no hint of the jalapeno spice I was expecting.  The bag was marked "JAL" so I'm sure it is supposed to be jalapeno.  Their sausage is leaner than most but it also has better smoke flavor than most. 

I have some mighty fine eating to do over the next week or so.  I hope the cooks at the KCBS contest in Bedford are on their game next weekend.  However I don't hold out much hope of them matching any of this.
In the photo above Pecan Lodge brisket is at the bottom, Snow's brisket and sausage is at the top.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August Snow's in Texas!

8/20/14  ???????
Not the frozen water from the sky, the smoked meats from Lexington!
Now that's the kind of Snow's I can handle!  Smoked fresh Friday night and at my door frozen on Wednesday evening.  I didn't even have to get up early on a Saturday morning and drive to Lexington.  Now I know it's always better fresh off the pit, but I've found in the past that warmed up brisket and sausage can make a mighty fine meal.  Scott and I have been planning to order us some Snow's for awhile now and we finally got our freezers down low enough to have some room.  Scott even went by Pecan Lodge and grabbed us a few pounds for a comparison test.

My order was 2 whole briskets plus one order of jalapeno sausage.  The briskets came in at 4.5 and 4.6 pounds and I'm guessing there is around 2 pounds of sausage. With shipping it came to around $14/pound.  Not bad for home delivery!

-----------------Individual Item Breakdown-----------------
Item Ref.   Price ea.   Qty.  Description
snows01     $59.95      2     Snow's BBQ Brisket
snows12     $14.95      1     Snow's Jalepeno Sausage
---------------------Order Summary-------------------------
Item Subtotal:    $134.85
Shipping Cost:    $18.09
GRAND TOTAL:      $152.94 

We will warm some up later and report back.  I'm looking forward to smelling smoke from Lexington in my microwave.  Easy mode!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mr Grill 18 inch grill cleaning brush

This was another one of those weird deals that comes along infrequently where someone asked me to review their product.  Most of the time, I just decline.  I am mainly here for the BBQ and because I'm just too lazy to answer the same questions over and over about where we've been lately, what was good, etc.  I'm really not here to get free stuff or because I am going to write a book or sell koozies.  I just like BBQ.  However, as a BBQ lover, and a lover of meat in general, the wife and I do some grilling from time to time.  This looked like an interesting product that we could use, so when Mr Grill asked if we would like a free grill brush in return for a review I said, sure, why not.

This was back in May of this year and they had asked for a fairly quick review here, plus a review post on  It has taken me much longer than anticipated to get this done and I apologize to Mr Grill for the delay.  Part of the problem has been we have not done a lot of grilling this season.  In order to do a good test of this product I wanted to use it several times under different conditions, not just a one time test and a quick review.  Once again, I was provided this product free of charge by the folks at Mr Grill.

As a practicing carnivore we tried out this grill brush with several different meats and in a couple of different situations.  First off we fired up the box for some good old ribeyes.  The key thing about this brush is the 18 inch long wooden handle.  They recommend that you use it while your grill is still hot for easiest removal of food particles from the grill surface.  We have a simple, heavy wire grate that is probably about 15 years old.  After cooking the steaks I did some scrubbing with the Mr Grill brush while the meat rested.  Here is what the grate looked like before and after.  As always you can click on the photos for larger views.
Now this was done while the coals were still plenty hot.  I think it did a pretty nice job.  The pitting on the close up is just because it is a 15 year old grate that has seen lots of use.  Food particles washed out easily from the brush with the hose.

Next up, several weeks later, we grilled up some hamburgers.  My wife wanted to scrub the grate as usual and she found the pre-cleaning done last time after cooking the steaks saved her considerable time.  All she needed to do was do a quick scrub with a fine brillo and some soap and water and we were ready to go.  No more digging off dried and encrusted food particles.  The Mrs liked this.
One again here's the before and after pictures.
Again, a quick scrub and most of the mess was gone.  With the long wooden handle, I didn't even need to wear a glove, even though the coals were still smoking hot.

Our next use of the product was on our little bullet smoker.  The Mrs decided to smoke some chicken.  Her secret marinade means it does not come out very pretty, but it sure is delicious, moist and smokey.  She has been experimenting with adding glazes to the last part of the cooking in order to make her smoked chicken "prettier".  That meant there was a sticky mess on the grill surface when we finished the smoke.  I have to say this was the one "fail" for this grill brush, however I think that was mostly operator error.  As I had done previously with grilling, I went at it right after we removed the chicken from the grill.  It mostly resulted in smearing out a sticky mess and clogging up the brush bristles with same.  It probably would have been better to leave things alone for awhile and move the grills closer to the hot coals to let them harden up that glaze.  Lesson learned.  I wondered awhile how I was going to get that mess out of the bristles, but I found plugging in the hot tea kettle, boiling some water, and pouring it over the brush worked the miracle.

Our final experiment was back to steaks.  Here's the before and after pictures once again.
Still doing a nice job and the Mrs is very happy with her reduced cleaning time on our grilling projects.  The Mrs is happy so I'm happy.

One key issue is how the bristles hold up.  Below is the before and after, new and following 4 uses.
The trick with a cleaning brush like this is you want bristles stiff enough to do the cleaning but not stiff enough to scratch or damage your grate.  These brass bristles do a good job of getting off the gunk and I doubt they hurt the grate at all.  Sort of hard to tell for sure with our old beat up grate on there though.  It's held up pretty well in four uses and I think we'll get a lot more use from it.

I guess timing is everything because I just looked on Amazon and find this very brush is on sale for just $9.99.   Who knows how long that will last but I think it's a very good deal.  Their regular price is $13.99.    Mr Grill on Amazon

Thanks to Mr Grill for allowing us to test out this fine product.  Again, sorry for the long delay in getting it reviewed.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beware the Lone Star Tick that can make you allergic to BBQ!

Thanks to my buddy Dave in Houston for the tip.  Scary stuff, but fortunately this tick seems to be mostly in the southeast and far away from Texas BBQ lovers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's almost time...

...for the Fall BBQ season.  Just a few more weeks of this 100 degree heat and it will be time for all the fall BBQ festivals.

On August 31 I'll be judging the Texas State championship KCBS contest at the Bedford Blues and BBQ fest for the the fifth straight year.  September 14th Scott and I will be down for the Texas Monthly BBQ festival in Austin.  Thanks again to buddy Dave for being online and pounding enter on his keyboard to buy us all VIP tickets during the 4 minutes they were available!  October 4th Scott and I will be at the inaugural Smoked Dallas event.  Then on October 19th we'll be back in Austin for Gettin Sauced, our first chance to catch the annual event put on by our buddies at Man Up. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The August 2014 Fort Worth and Westward BBQ jaunt

Sampled August 2, 2014

Another short but merry trip is in the books.  We hit 5 BBQ joints, a malt shop, and a liquor store on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  What's not to love?  We focused on Texas Monthly Top 50 joints for Scott but still managed to sample a brand new spot that had just opened.  Travelogue and lots of photos follow below.  As usual, you can click on the photos for a larger view.

We just had a few bites at each joint as a sample and brought along plastic bags for the rest.  Some got thrown out, some we took along, and at one spot I had to order more to go.  I think we will have to make further forays into Fort Worth and westward looking for good Que because I am sure there is more to find.