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Joined by our passion for meat, beer, cards and meat, we created a compitition bbq team to partake in just that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

BBQ Tools - Cedar Planks

BBQ Tools - Cedar Planks

Cedar wood grilling planks have been around for a while and most of you have seen them before - but do you know how easy they are to use and how well they work?!?

The purpose of the Cedar Planks is to provide an indirect cooking area for more delicate foods while adding some flavors. These planks can be used in any smoker, charcoal grill or gas grill but take the following precautions - on any cooker, make sure the grate temp does NOT exceed 300F:

Smoker - no real precautions - you're already cooking indirect so just soak the planks.

Charcoal Grill - try and move the coals to one side of the kettle and place the planks on the opposite side. Keep a spray bottle of water handy just in case the plank catches on fire.

Gas Grill - ONLY use on the indirect side - turn the burner on one side only and use the planks on the other side. Make sure the flame does NOT touch the planks. Keep a spray bottle of water handy just in case the plank catches on fire. You may also want to place a sheet pan between the burner and the planks to ensure no flames touch the planks.

Prep the planks - soak the planks in a container that covers at least half of the plank - remember - they float! Soak the planks for at least 1/2 hour and up to 3 hours. You can add salt, balsamic vinegar, apple cider, or whatever you can think of that will add flavor to the food as it evaporates during the cook.

The first time you use the planks, you will have to cure them - soak them and then cook them on the grate for 2 minutes per side and flip at least 2 times so each side gets "heat treated" twice. This will reduce warpage in the future.

Soak the planks for 1/2 hour to 3 hours. I used a bucket with some apple cider, sea salt, and season salt. I soaked them for 3 hours, flipping them over every 1/2 hour to ensure the entire plank was soaked.

The first time you use the planks you have to "heat treat" them. Place them on the grate after you soak them - make sure you flip them every 2 minutes and make sure each side gets the treatment at least twice. This will ensure the planks don't warp.

Cooking on the planks - these planks are great to cook fish, shell fish, vegetables, or any other delicate food item that will fall through the cooking grate or tends to fall apart. I cooked some salmon here.

You can see the salmon cooking - the planks slowly loose their moisture and the cider and seasoning that I soaked the planks in slowly steamed out of the planks and into the food. This is a great way to infuse some additional flavors. I don't recommend cooking anything on the planks that takes longer than 30 minutes because the planks will completely dry out and then you have a fire hazard. Watch the pit / cooker the entire time these planks are on the fire!

This is an inexpensive way to add another dimension - and some fun - to your cook. What a great way to experiment AND cook some foods that are typically tough to cook on the grate!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tapenade Stuffed Pork Loin

Tapenade Stuffed Pork Loin!

This looks impressive, it's very tasty, but don't tell anyone - really easy to prep and cook!

Tapenade is usually made as an appetizer - made into a spread for crostinis or toast - but can be used to stuff meats - like I did!

The ingredients are pretty basic:
Olives - 1 cup
Garlic - minced - 1 1/2 tblspn
Capers - 4 tblspn
Lemon Juice - 4 tblspn
Olive Oil - 4 tblspn
Kosher Sea Salt - 1 1/2 tblspn
Black Pepper - 1/2 tblspn

Mince the olives and capers - not too fine. Add and mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

Now the hard part - it's not really that hard - prepping the loin. You must have a very sharp knife. Make the following cuts slow - take your time. If you cut too deep you will slice through the meat and there will be a hole in the finished meat. Holes are bad - the filling will fall through!

Cut down the center of the loin until there is about 2" left unsliced.

Start slicing horizontal about a 1" down from where the vertical cut stopped and open the flap up as you slice. Slice until you are about 1" away from the horizontal edge.
You can slice offset from the previous slices to open up the meat the rest of the way. You want to cut offset from the previous slices because the meat will open up more and there will be less chance of slicing through the meat and making holes.
Spread the tapenade filling evenly over the loin. You can add other ingredients into the stuffing such as cheese or some red or yellow bell peppers to add some color. You want the tapenade flavor to come through so if you add something else - make it a mild flavor or a flavor that will match well to the salty / olive flavor of the tapenade.

Roll up the loin and use butcher's twine to tie the roll up and hold it together. Have someone help you on this step and try and get the twine as tight as possible - you can't hurt the meat so pull the twine as tight as possible.
Now let's make the dry rub that will cover the outside. This dry rub is Mediterranean inspired - feel free to adjust as you like.

Black Pepper - 1 tblspn
Garlic Powder - 1 1/2 tblspn
Kosher Salt - 1 tblspn
Italian Seasoning - 6 - 8 tblspn

Heavily coat the outside of the loin.

Place on the smoker / gas grill / oven @ 300F grate temp. Pretty easy to make in the oven. Gas grill would be tough but possible - place the loin on the side of the gas grill with all the burners off - control the opposite side burner as low as possible and keep the grate temp at 300F.
Roll over to evenly cook and get some grate marks on the other side after about 1 hour.
For a smoker - I would avoid using mesquite - it's just too powerful of a flavor and will drown out the tapenade. I would use apple, pecan, or maybe oak.
Cook until internal temp is 160F. I average about 2 hours cook time on this loin but have seen in take up to 3 hours. The nice thing is you can estimate long and let the loin rest longer. After you hit internal temp, wrap in foil then a beach towel and place in a clean dry cooler or on the counter for at least 1/2 hour to let it rest.
Cut the twine off. Slice into about 1 1/2" thick slices. The pin wheel effect looks nice - the meat should be pretty even between the coils if you cut the loin up evenly. The bark on the loin looks nice and dark offsetting the pork. If you cooked it on a smoker nice and slow, you will get some pink smoke ring too.
Serve it up - Let's eat! This is plated with a spinach, hard salami, and pepper jack cheese stuffed loin and some smoked Mac & Cheese.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Smoked Dessert Banana

Smoked Banana Dessert

This is a REALLY easy recipe - AND - a crowd favorite. You can do this on a gas grill, smoker, or even in the oven. The kids REALLY like it and if you eat it while you are standing up - it's fat free!

This is also a really cool do it yourself snack that the kids can help out and build their own!

Use a piece of foil - I prefer heavy duty to make sure it doesn't rip / tear during the process - make sure it is a big enough piece to completely wrap the banana. If you don't have heavy duty foil - use regular foil and fold in in half so it is double thick.

Place the banana in the middle and slit it down the middle.

Squeeze the banana from the ends so it creates a cavity in the center.

Get your favorite candy bars - I like to use left over Halloween candy, mini marsh mellows, and graham crackers.

Dice the candy bars into small pieces - about 1/2 of a full size candy bar or 3 of the really small Halloween size candy bars.

Crumble the graham crackers.

Stuff the diced candy bars into the banana, top with the mini marsh mellows and then sprinkle the crushed graham crackers on top. Some people like to add the graham crackers on after the banana is cooked so there is some extra crunch on top.

Wrap the banana in foil and place on the grate / oven at 275 - 300F. If you are using a gas grill - turn the burners off on one side and place the banana on the non lit side. Cook for about 20 - 30 minutes. Some people like their bananas less squishy and closer to 20 minutes is better. Personally, I like it a little soupy and the 30 minute mark seems perfect.

OH YEAH! Dig in - let's eat!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Eve - Two KCBS Comps in Two Days

New Year's Eve / New Year's Day California State Championship - Two events in two days in two years! This event was held in Wildomar, CA. It was a huge draw with 45 teams from all over the US. Meat, Inc. was well represented:

Back Row (L - R), Matty, Kyle, Bigger Daddy Black, Noe, Doug, Michelle, Big Daddy, Mike F, Front Row (L - R) Mike H (aka J-Lo), and Mike B.

There were more people helping out - Thanks to all!
This was a LONG event - we showed up on December 30 to prep for the NYE turn ins.

Aaron (aka Big Daddy Black) - showed J-Lo and Mike F how to scrape chicken skins. It's such a fun job that Big Daddy "allowed" the Mikes to get to work!

Noe and Aaron tried out some team dinner - spatch cocked chicken. Kyle weaving some bacon for some breakfast fatties! Hard work with bacon deserves a smile!

Kyle discussing the finer points of bacon weaving. Bigger Daddy Black taking a break.

Bigger Daddy Black still taking a break. J-Lo with his baby crumb snatcher - waiting for some BBQ to come off the grate!

Day 1 started off with a bang - Chicken turn in. We went with the breast and 6 pieces of thighs. It seemed like a good idea until we saw the scores.

654 798 887 767 898 989 16/45
We had higher hopes but what can you say?!?!

Ribs - We knew we would score low - they were underdone. Trying out a new technique at a bbq comp is a HORRIBLE idea. Don't do this..... ever..... never....!

736 877 966 966 765 765 44/45 Not a DAL but can't get any closer.

Pork - we thought we did pretty good. Good taste, tenderness and appearance. The judges didn't think as highly.
777 778 888 877 877 878 29/45

Brisket - I felt really good about the tenderness and the flavor. The smoke ring was nice too.
979 877 999 767 766 876 20/45.
Overall for the first day was a lower than expected 36/45. That rib score really dragged us down.
We also participated in an Iron Chef Challenge. The team really came together to create an incredible dish. The mystery ingredient - zucchini!
The team came up with this incredible dish: We halved and boated the zucchini and then smoked them with some EVOO while Michelle and Noe made some hand rolled pan seared meat balls. We also smoked some Roma Tomatoes with some minced garlic and EVOO. The meat balls were placed in the zucchini boats, topped with peeled tomatoes and then garnished with blue cheese and sour cream sauce with some smoked bacon sprinkles. The dish was awesome and tasted fantastic. We pulled in a solid third.
Michelle telling the judges about the dish we created. I never heard such creative adjectives!
Right after the award ceremony it was time for the extra comps! NYE dinner for the VIP's, Meat, Inc. delivered all four courses for the side comps: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, and Dessert. We brought a chicken breast crustini topped with Swiss and dill weed - won FIRST PLACE!!!! Way to go Michelle! Main Course was Stuffed Pork Loin. Side Dish was Garlic Mac & Cheese. Dessert was stuffed smoked bananas,
People's Choice Award - keep reading!

Day two - New Year's Eve - prepping for New Year's Day Competition - the first comp of the New Year!

Bigger Daddy Black taking another break. Beautiful day - what a way to start the new year! The entire area was blocked off for the amazing turn out of teams.

Doesn't get any better than this - (L - R) Jerry "The King of BBQ" King, Aaron "Big Daddy" Black, "Monkey", Brian "Big Country" Zalewski, and Johnny Trigg.

A couple of Fatties for breakfast. This team knows how to eat!!!!

Side story - what kinda a$$ hole would buy a 25lb brisket? I sent Bigger Daddy Black out to get some more meats because Meat, Inc. ran out of meat during the vending portion / People's Choice on NYE. Bigger Daddy Black actually bought the largest brisket ever seen. 25lbs!! He was so proud of himself - "Look at the size of this one!" - Oh Boy! 25lbs! WTFO? We cooked it for 12 hours, cut it up and cooked it for 6 more hours until you could actually chew it. We're trying to show the scale of this monster. It is not an exaggeration that EVERY team within 50 yards came to see this monster. Side by side pic with a 15lb brisket kind of shows the size. Doug holding the monster kind of shows the size. Look at the full size hand over the cooked brisket should show the size but still doesn't.... it was HUGE!!!

Day 2 turn ins:

Chicken - I did not want to scrape skins again - particularly after Simply Rock'n turned in skinless thighs. Well, we did it again. Added the breast. Here's the kicker - in order to get a piece of skin that large, we cut a breast out of a whole chicken and used the skin from the whole chicken to create a piece of skin that large. What a pain in the a$$! All in the hopes of winning.

977 888 888 888 989 16/43
Still not the score we'd like to see.
Ribs - they were a little overcooked this time. I repeat - DO NOT try a new cooking method for the first - or second - time at a comp. Really BAD idea!
756 877 988 777 977 986 33/43
Pork - We felt good about this category again BUT the judges still didn't agree.

787 767 766 877 879 868 33/43

Brisket - after the NYE comp, we felt that we were really on with brisket. After the scores on NYE, we didn't really know what else we could have done so we gave it another run. Didn't work out.
866 988 766 776 988 867 32/43
We finished up average in the KCBS comps even though we felt we had some really strong turn ins. The good news is we finished up 1st in People's Choice for NYE! We finished up 2nd place in People's Choice on NYD - we lost by 4 votes! Overall, for the whole weekend, we had the most People's Choice by over than a 100 votes!
Thanks to our fans!