November 2005

This recipe comes from my web site. I noticed someone found the recipe but had a few questions and posted it on the Forum. So I will pass it along here on the blog.

Home Made Beef Sticks
I have had several inquires in making Home Made Beef Sticks so I have decided to make a web page just for doing so.

How to make Beef Sticks

First we need some ingredients.


This will make a ten pound batch. It will be broken down at the end of the page for a two pound batch.

5 TBSP Tender Quick
1 TBSP Mace
4 TBSP Paprika
6 TBSP Ground Mustard
1 tsp. Celery seed – ground
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 tsp. White pepper
2 TBSP Dextrose – I found mine in a Health Food store
2 tsp. red pepper

If you want to make this a Pepperoni Stick, add 2 tsp. Ansie

To make a 2 pound batch, take the above recipe and take 5 TBSP minus 1/8 tsp. and mix with two pounds of lean ground hamburger.
That would be, mix everything to make a ten pound batch and take 5 TBSP minus 1/8 tsp. and add this to two pounds of hamburger.

1. Desolve Tender Quick in a little water, add to meat and mix well
2. Blend remaining ingredients and add to meat mixture and mix well.
3. Form in 1/2 inch diameter rolls. Dehydrate on high for 5 hours. *
I mix ALL the dry ingredients together and skip step 1
I also mix (blend) all the dry ingredients in a food processor.
I also use a food processor to mix the meat (hamburger) and the seasoning together.
* If you use your oven, set temp. to 155 degrees and keep the door
cracked open for air flow.

I also use a Jerky gun with the large round tip and shoot the meat on the trays.

Happy Beef Stick making!
Ken aka-Barbqr

Care to Share?

The following review was submitted by Brian Pearcy aka “The BBQ Guy” with minor editting.

Famous Dave’s
36601 Warren Road
Westland, MI 48185
(734) 595-1000

After a quick visit to the Westland Mall on 11/25/05, my wife Linda and I stopped by the Famous Dave’s restaurant for lunch.

As we entered the front door, we immediately noticed that the interior decorators had gone to a great deal of trouble in an attempt to duplicate the atmosphere one might discover in a bon-a-fide southern-style BBQ place, even though most of the items appeared to be reproduction items. I’m sure it’s hard to find genuine southern artifacts for display like that, but some of the items were obvious store-bought wannabe antiques.

We were greeted by the hostess and seated at a booth in the front dining room. The booths, tables and chairs in the dining room were made of wood and covered in red and white vinyl checker table cloths and floor was very clean. The numerous windows let in lots of natural sunlight and made a very pleasant impression. The dining room was filled with blues music emanating from several stereo speakers mounted strategically throughout the dining room. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Vaughn, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Albert Collins were some of the artists I recognized.

Linda made a comment to me that for a bbq restaurant there was an absence of any smokey aroma she expected. When the waitress arrived at the table after we’d been seated a short time, Linda asked, “How come I don’t smell any smoke?” The waitress replied, “Did you want to set in the smoking section?” Neither Linda nor I smoke cigarettes, but after Linda explained that she was referring to bbq smoke from burning wood or charcoal, the waitress struggled to explain that she shouldn’t expect to “smell” smoke because the smoker was “in the back”. I think the waitress missed the point of the question entirely, but after a period of awkward silence and Linda trying to explain that she thought bbq cooked with burning wood or charcoal would produce at least some amount of smoke fragrance, we proceeded to place our order.

The waitress did an excellent job explaining the main menu items and accompanying side order choices. The restaurant menu has a lunch section and a dinner section, but customers can order from either one. The waitress explained that the lunch items are served in smaller portion sizes and are slightly less expensive. Famous Dave’s offers appetizers, soups, salads, fish, burgers in addition to the “classic” bbq items. The “All-American BBQ Feast” serves 4-5 people for $53 and the menu also detailed a ”Feast for Two” for $30 in addition to various other combinations annotated as “combos”.

Linda chose the “Georgia Chopped Pork” sandwich and I ordered the “Texas Beef Brisket”. Side choices included corn bread muffin, potato salad, creamy coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob, fries, apples, baked potato or beans. We both had the beans, and I added potato salad.

As we waited for our order we sampled the selection of sauces on the table which included traditional Heinz ketchup, “Devil’s Spit”, “Texas Style”, “Georgia Mustard”, “Rich and Sassy” and “Sweet and Sassy”. I liked the two sassy selections best.

After just a very few minutes the waitress brought our meals. The chopped pork was served on a traditional hamburger bun and sauced with the “Sweet and Sassy” barbecue sauce. My brisket slices were served on a slice of Texas toast, with a little “Rich and Sassy” barbecue sauce on top, and accompanied by a corn muffin and corn-on-the-cob in addition to the potato salad and beans I ordered. The chopped pork sandwich looked very tasty and Linda confirmed that it exceeded what she has come to expect from a commercial bbq restaurant. My sliced brisket was a little different from what I would cook at home and had no visible “bark” or bbq spice rub whatsoever, but it was good nonetheless. We were both satisfied with the meal and agreed that it’s head and shoulders above any other barbecue we’ve sampled since moving to the Detroit area.

The waitress brought Coke and Diet Coke refills without us having to ask and the receipt totalled $21. We left a $3 tip and left, pleasantly surprised.

On a scale of 1 through 10, I’d rate the overall dining experience an “8.5″ and the barbecue as “good”. Linda made several positive comments on the way back to the truck regarding the good quality of service provided by the waitress.

Brian Pearcy
“The BBQ Guy”
Member Kansas City Barbecue Society
Member Florida Barbecue Association

I’d hoped to make my last Blog entry before Thanksgiving completely about fun stuff, but I do need to alert you to the latest e-mail scam. This one tries to make you believe that it comes from the FBI, they’ve caught you visiting illegal web sites, and that you need to open an attachment to answer some questions. You can find the details in this MSNBC article — FBI warns users against scam e-mails. They include a link for reporting internet crimes — the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Very well, on to the fun stuff…

I stumbled across this link yesterday entitled Great grilling with gadgets, and there were a couple cool items listed. On page two, they show a portable, outdoor ice maker that makes 35 lbs of ice in 24 hrs! That sure would come in handy at times.

Here’s a few complete wastes of time if you’re stuck at the office trying not to think about the time clock. Just don’t blame me when the boss catches you!

The Blue Ball Machine is pretty cool. WARNING – check your speaker level before you click on this one. It plays a loud, annoying sound file. Are you wondering how they got it to be so huge? There’s a trick to it, do you know what it is?

My high score on The Grid Game was 837. Don’t ask how long I played.

Here’s a neat little memory game.

This one is processor intensive, and slows my machine down. You might want to save anything your working on before clicking this one. It is pretty slick though — String Spin.

While I think the concept behind Phoneswarm is somewhat amusing, I never hope I get so bored I join in 🙂 To get a description of what the site is about, click on the “faq” link at the top.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Gerry Schatte

You’ve committed to joining competition BBQ. You’ve practiced and are ready to go. You’ve gotten buyoff from the family and you have your support structure, but now you ask yourself “what goes on?” The following article attempts to describe some of what goes on. The article has been broken into 3 parts: Part 1 describes activities leading up to arrival at the competition. Part 2 covers competition Friday night, and Part 3 discusses competition climax, Saturday.

Part 1 – Competition Preparation. Preparation activity starts early in the week of the competition. Some folks have the fortune of focusing a tremendous amount of energy on this preparation aspect, but for most of us, it’s a hobby and must take a back seat to our jobs and family obligations. Stress levels and anxiety escalate as the week progresses, so when Friday evening comes, you’re thankful for being able to finally execute your craft. The relaxed feeling you get at about 10pm on Friday night of a competition, devoid of all the everyday stressors, is priceless. Here’s a typical week for me.

Monday – Is a light day from a competition standpoint. It’s mostly spent organizing all the stuff to be packed into the minivan. This includes prepping the smokers, double checking the need for and restocking any non-perishable supplies, repairing things that have broken (cookers, tables, canopies), and if necessary, mix up some dry rubs for the competition.

Tuesday – Get the meat on the way home. Brisket from place A, pork from store B, Ribs from supplier C, and chicken from store D. This was the most stressful aspect of cooking last season. Not only did I have the anxiety of going to 4 different places, but there was the additional stress of being at the mercy of what the suppliers had in stock. Even with advanced planning, I was still subject to their whim. Having all the meat in the fridge at home was probably my greatest relief of all the preparation activities. When I finally get home; I help with the fatherly chores of the day (homework, grass cutting, playing ball, t-ball coach, baths, etc) and collapse.

Wednesday – Come home from work, eventually get kids to bed, then I start trimming meat. Chicken, ribs, brisket, whatever needs attention gets trimmed this evening. Usually keeps me up too late. This was something I didn’t start until late in the season, but the convenience of trimming chicken or brisket while at home is worth a little lost sleep. New cooks might not realize that there is nothing stated in the KCBS rules that the meat must be in its original packaging at the time of inspection, just don’t rub it or marinade it or inject with anything prior to inspection. Trimming your meat at home improves the whole experience at the competition. I thought that was hogwash…until I tried it.

Thursday – On the way home from work, I purchase the greens for the contest. Get home, take care of all the fatherly duties again, and then start packing the van. This means emptying the van of its contents, toys, books, ball gloves, strollers, juice boxes, all the seats, its about 10:00pm now. Packing a Dodge Caravan with all the equipment needed for a contest is as challenging of an engineering problem as anyone has ever posed. After the first two contests, I got it down, so in 45-60 minutes, the van is packed except for the coolers holding the meat and greens. I go into the house to wash greens and prep them for the trip. This day in particular the competitive adrenalin start coursing through your system. Up too late again.

All this activity is mind consuming. Two hours each day of commute leaves time to plan, and play out the cook in my head. I mentally go through every facet from meat prep to lighting the fires, to boxing the meat. But that’s not quite enough time. While at work, I’m sure I become more introverted as the week progresses as my mind gets more and more occupied with the upcoming competition. Notice, I didn’t refer to it as a distraction, on the contrary, I get irritated that everything else in life distracts me from focusing on BBQ (yeah, it’s a bit like any other addiction out there!!). I firmly believe that the days leading up to a competition are a main differentiation between newbies and experienced teams. As you gain experience, the time leading up to a competition becomes more programmed, leaving more energy to be spent on focusing on cooking and producing the best BBQ you can.

5:00am – Alarm goes off, shower, pack clothes for the contest, go through lists one final time, pack any remaining items in the van.

8:00am – I hit the road to wherever (most contests for me are between 2 and 4 hours away), and I like to arrive before noon. Stop for ice and a soda, put tunes in the CD player and off we go. I usually realize with in the first hour that I’ve forgotten something, like; salad dressing, charcoal, cutting boards, tongs, or mixing bowls. But at this time, it doesn’t matter too much, because I’ve achieved a BBQ state of mind. Oh I spend some time envious of those lucky folk who pulled up on Thursday night, or are already at the site. But for the most part, I’m as happy as a clam, to be trekking towards my next BBQ adventure.

Next time I’ll go into what happens on Friday after you arrive. But for now, have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the time with friends and family.

Joey Mac

What a suprise I had this morning when I checked my e-mail and found that Steve Marr (Denver Cajun) had sent me his Competition Gumbo recipe.
Folks. I have had the pleasure to have some of Steve’s Gumbo at several contests he has cooked at, and beleive me this stuff is GOOD !!! And with the cold weather setting in, this will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Steve, thanks for sharing my friend. Keep warm in the big D.

The Denver Cajun’s Competition Gumbo

1 C. lard
1 C. all purpose flour
3 lbs. smoked chicken (cut into bite size pieces)
1 1/2 lbs. Andouille sausage (cut into bite size pieces)
or a good smoked firm sausage
4 C. chopped yellow onions
2 C. chopped celery
2 C. chopped green peppers

1 TBSP chopped garlic
8 C. chicken stock (not the crap in a can either)
2 C. chopped green onions

Cooked Rice (medium grain)
Cajun seasoning
French bread

The first secret to a good gumbo is the “roux”. Without it you have
chicken soup. I have tried many ways of making roux and it comes down
to your favorite…this is mine.
Equal parts all purpose flour and snow cap lard. This recipe makes 15
-20 servings so I use 1 cup flour and 1 cup lard. You need a heavy pan
or pot to make the roux in (cast iron or the enameled cast works best)
and I like to use a flat whisk to stir it with. You have to be ready
for about twenty minutes at the stove…no potty breaks or going to the
fridge for a drink. You have to stir the roux continuously or it will
burn and you have to start over again.

Make sure you have your trinity chopped and ready to add….it will
added to the roux in that order. Once you add the onions you will want
to change to a large wooden spoon for the stirring action. After the
trinity is cooked to the desired tenderness add 1 tablespoon of finely
chopped garlic (or more if you want)

OK, lets start! In a heavy pot add the lard and turn the burner to
medium high. As the lard begins to melt start adding the flour. Stir
with the whisk continuously until the roux reaches a dark chocolate
brown. You will notice several color changes in the process. Once it
hits a medium brown it will go pretty fast to dark so be ready. Turn
down the heat to medium when it hits light brown. When it gets to dark
brown add the chopped onions. Switch to the spoon and stir, stir, stir.
Turn the burner to low. Add the rest of the trinity and continue
stirring until the trinity is well cooked. This stage is where the
flavors of the gumbo are really defined. The clod veggies stop the roux
cooking process and the heat of the roux quickly cooks the veggies. So
it’s a good deal for both. Add the garlic and stir in. (Depending on
how big a pot you started with it might be necessary to transfer the
roux and veggie mixture to a large stock pot before adding the rest of
the ingredients.) Now add the chicken, pork and sausage to the mixture.
Continue to stir. Gradually stir in the delicious homemade chicken
stock that you made. Bring it up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer
and let it get happy for at least an hour. Season to taste with the
Cajun seasoning.

Make some rice if you want to serve the gumbo over rice (you don’t
have too…???)
About ten minutes before you are ready to serve add the chopped green
Serve with the French bread. File’ can be added by each lucky soul
partaking in this feast as they desire. The file’ is finely ground
dried sassafras leaves which will add flavor and thickening to the
gumbo. 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. per serving is recommended.

Thanks again Steve!

Care to Share?

Sony Installs Trojan Horse:

How upset would you be if I told you one of the largest electronics manufacturers may have installed a Trojan horse program on your computer?  What if you found out that it was secretly using your processor time and maybe even keeping your computer from going into power-save mode?  Yeah, me too.  Well, it appears as though Sony is doing just that with their latest attempt at copy protection, installing a type of Trojan horse called a “rootkit”.

You can read about it here in this MSNBC article, What’s on that music CD anyway?  A more technical description can be found at Mark’s Sysinternals Blog, and here’s a list of CDs that will install these on your computer.  Thanks to Lawhog for pointing out the word should be spread on this.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be very careful about the CDs I drop into my computer as well as which ones I buy. After publishing this I noticed another article. Looks like Sony is going to be in some hot water.

Critical Windows Flaw:

Anyone running Microsoft Windows should already be doing this, but I wanted to remind you it is time to go to Windows Update and install any security-related patches.  Microsoft just revealed a “Critical” security flaw and subsequent patch, so all users should install it immediately.  Here’s the MSNBC article, Microsoft warns of “critical” Windows flaw.

RATs – Follow Up:

In a follow-up to my first Blog about Remote Access Trojans (RATS), I wanted to post a link to this article by Bob Sullivan, Here’s How to Fight Off Rats.

A lot of available information on preventing RATs from infesting your computer are not tools or hardware, they are tips on using safe surfing habits.  You should already be using safe surfing techniques, but I’ll need to save that for a future article.

Gerry Schatte

4817 Pinson Valley Pkwy
Birmingham, AL 35215
Ph# 205-853-6488

Part 2 of 3 reviews in Alabama

I’ll admit that Ken’s Hickory Pit Barbecue in Birmingham, Al has been my favorite barbecue restaurant for at least over 30 years. That goes back to when I was a freshman at Jefferson State Junior College in 1970. I believe that’s about the time that Ken’s opened just down the road from Jeff. State. It became a favorite lunch spot for the college kids and soon was well known throughout the eastern end of Birmingham.

Now let me start out by saying that Ken’s is not a fancy place with hostesses, bar or ambiance. In fact you will not be able to order any alcoholic beverages at Ken’s. This is a roadside barbecue “joint” and I use that term affectionately and with all due respect. People come here for one reason, to eat outstanding barbecue. It is located on busy Pinson Valley Parkway in the northeast section of Birmingham and Jefferson County. Drive by here any day close to lunchtime and you will not find a parking place in the main lot. You will notice that the folks at Ken cut their own hickory with a log splitter located on one side of the building. When you exit your car the first thing you smell is that wonderful hickory smoke coming out of the pit smoke stack. Walk in the front door and you’ll notice a pretty busy place, tables and chairs in front of you and a long counter with stools to your left.

If I’m by myself I usually sit at the counter just in front of the pit. Here you will have a ringside seat to view the meats on the open pit and also see the help prepare the meals. When you sit down you’ll notice that there are no menus to hand out. All of the food items are displayed on a menu board above the meal prep area. Most of the people that come into Ken’s are regulars. They know what they want and really do not need a menu. That’s certainly true with me. I have been ordering the combination plate for as long as I can remember. The combination plate includes chopped pork barbecue, several slices of smoked link sausage, barbecue beans, French fries, Cole slaw and a slice of white bread. You can order either the small or regular size plate for any of the plate dinners. Take my word for it the small plate will give you plenty of food.

Ken’s only has one type of barbecue sauce. It’s a dark brown rich sauce that is short on the sweet and loaded with spice and flavor. I have been trying to come up with a similar homemade sauce that resembles Ken’s and I just cannot match it. The pork meat is superb with great hickory smoke flavor. I always ask for mixed barbecue pork (inside meat and outside bark mix). Now Ken’s also offers chicken, sausage and ribs along with sandwiches. Their baked beans are certainly worth trying. They put a healthy dose of pork in with the beans. Mighty tasty!

Now back to the pit. Ken’s like numerous other Alabama barbecue restaurants (see Johnny Ray’s) uses a brick pit instead of more modern types of barbecue smokers. A pit master tends to the pit checking the meats and turning when necessary and adding firewood as needed. The meats rest on a metal grate blackened with years of smoke residue. As I mentioned earlier my favorite spot is at the counter where I can witness all the action preparing the meals, tending the pit and watch the pit master chop the pork butts. It’s worth a cover charge to view the pork butts coming off the pit and rendering themselves up to human consumption. Oh yes you want find pulled pork here. Chopped is the preferred style, although you may be able to get your order sliced.

Next time you’re in the Birmingham area be sure to stop by Ken’s Hickory Pit Barbecue. I’m sure you will be glad you did.

2250 Warm Springs Road (Green Valley area)
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Ph# 702-260-6909

Week of October 31st

Well your humble reporter is on his annual trek to Lost Wages, I mean Las Vegas to attend the SEMA/AAPEX show for the automotive aftermarket. I’ve been attending this show for the last 20 odd years and have seen it grow to become one of the largest convention/trade shows in Las Vegas. This year’s attendance was estimated to be close to 135,000.

So, I knew in advance that I was going to be here for a couple of days and I was determined to try some local barbecue. These trips to Vegas usually require lunch meetings with customers and an occasional dinner at some restaurant I can’t even spell much less pronounce. Before I left home I checked out the City Guides section on to see what kind of barbecue restaurants I had to choose from. I didn’t have to go to far until I came upon Memphis Championship Barbecue (MCB). Anyone who knows barbecue has heard of Mike Mills either through his competition team, restaurants, recent book and President of the NBBQA. Well my decision was made; I just needed to pick one of the four locations in the surrounding Vegas area.

I decided on the Warm Springs Road location for dinner. As the cab pulled up to the front door I noticed that this place was huge and very well decorated on the outside. A big sign out front makes it hard to miss MCB. Maureen, one of the hostesses on duty, greeted me. She led me to a table and mentioned that Melissa would be my server. Melissa arrived at the table and asked for my drink order. I chose sweet tea; yes they have sweet tea in Vegas. This gave me some time to look at the menu. MCB’s menu offers a wide variety of appetizers, salads, stuffed potatoes, Chili & Soups, burgers, sandwiches and side items. Some of the interesting appetizers: Onion Straws, Memphis Skins, Memphis Sliders (think White Castle or Krystal with bbq’d pork), and a item that you don’t see outside of the South-Southern Fried Dill Pickles. I think I could have made a meal off the Memphis Sampler Plate; onion straws, Memphis potato skins, smoked wings and Southern Fried Dill Pickles. However, I was here for some famous Mike Mills ‘Que. The rest of the menu included Ribs, Blue Ribbon Selections (combo plates) and entrees.

I finally found exactly what I was looking for, the “Grand Champion Plate”. This plate contains the following: 5 St. Louis ribs, 1 beef rib, smoked chicken (thigh and leg) hot link sausage, beef brisket, pork shoulder and choice of two sides. WOW! I chose baked beans and French fries for my sides and set back and loosen the belt for what was about to happen. This gave me a little time to walk around and view the restaurant. Maureen told me that each restaurant has been decorated to resemble Mike’s original restaurant in Murphysboro, IL. I noticed that I kept hearing a train whistle every couple of minutes. “This is for customers who liked their meal and service”, said Maureen. Kids particularly like to pull the cord and listen to the whistle on their way out the door.

Well, by the time I had made it back to my table the feast had arrived. Where do I begin, I started with the chicken. May be some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Tender, moist, nice pink color with just the right amount of apple wood smoke. I sprinkled some of the “Magic Dust” and a little barbecue sauce on the chicken. Didn’t care too much for the Magic Dust but the sauce was terrific with a subtle apple flavor. Then I tried the beef rib. A little tough but nice flavor. The St. Louis style ribs were excellent. Pull off the bone tender, perfectly done. The beef brisket was next. Several slices of brisket came with the plate. Very good beef taste and not over powered by the smoke. Finally I reached the end of my dining experience with the remaining chopped pork shoulder. I just added a little barbecue sauce and enjoyed the last few bites. The pork was great. Just enough apple wood smoke flavor and a little outside bark. The fries were typical frozen crinkle cut. The barbecue beans were wonderful, they included three types of beans Lima, Kidney and I believe White. The beans had a great sauce and were not too sweet. I believe this is the same recipe that appears in Mike’s book Peace, Love and Barbecue. MCB uses Ole Hickory Pits to smoke their meats. Apple wood is used to add the smoke flavor.

This was truly a terrific barbecue dining experience. I would give Memphis Championship Barbecue high marks for ambience, service and quality food. Hey Mike when you going to open a MCB in West Michigan?

A little side note: A special thank you to Maureen for bird-dogging the taxi company to come and pick me up. It must have taken an hour to get the cab out to MCB. But, due to Maureen’s persistence they did arrive.

Here is a recipe for Southern Corn Bread that is being shared by Hayden Powers.


2 cups white Corn Meal-Martha White is the best.
1 large egg
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of milk.
1 tbsp sugar. You can add a little more if you prefer it sweeter.
1/4-cup vegetable oil.
Preheat oven to 425.
Add oil to cast iron skillet and put in oven while preheating.
Mix Corn Meal, egg, milk and sugar until smooth. Set aside until oven is preheated.
Add hot oil from skillet to corn bread mixture and stir in.
Pour in to hot skillet and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and let cool a minute or two.
Gently try to pry baked corn bread from skillet with out tearing bottom. If your cast iron skillet is well seasoned this should not be a problem.
Cut into pieces, slice add butter and drink some sweet ice tea.
This is a pretty common southern recipe. You can find the same recipe on the bag of Martha White corn meal

Care to Share?

Before the turn-ins begin, or the meat gets cooked, or fires are lit, or the canopy goes up, or the vehicle gets packed, or even the check gets written for the entry fee, you have to start building the support structure for your BBQ adventure. Watching kids, walking the dog, babysitting the house, feeding the horses, doesn’t matter the task, you’ll need some sort of assistance. This may be your hobby, but in the end you still need some additional support from those closest to you. Most times, that means your spouse and your family.

You may embark upon your BBQ adventure with the thought it’s an outlet for you, but between the cash layout to compete, the time impact on your family, and all the BBQ you’ll be feeding them as you “practice”, you’d be best served to get the commitment from them as well. This is easiest accomplished by taking time to involve them in some capacity. Some families have the good fortune of being able to participate in every facet of competition BBQ together, sometimes that’s not feasible. The more they’re involved, the easier it’ll be justify the time you’re away, the money spent, and the stress you impose on your kids, spouse, and yourself.

For me, it wasn’t so much a selling job to them as much as it was bombarding them with the obsession I had for BBQ. They couldn’t help but absorb some of the BS I was feeding them, much more than I expected. For us, it started with the practice sessions. Every time I cooked BBQ, I practiced making a turn-in box. Then we’d make a big production of setting up a mini judging table, opening the box and letting everyone see it and give a score (as much as two year old can give a score). Sometimes I’d have two or more different flavors I’d be testing, and we’d pass pieces around and rank those. Understand I have a 9, 5, and 2 year old. Kids can be brutally honest about flavors, but interestingly enough, I’ve found what they like, judges have also liked the best. Due to their ages, it’s difficult to fully include them in the competition experience, their biggest contribution on Saturdays is blowing kisses as the meats are going to be turned in, yet they have a vested interest in seeing us reap the benefits since they’ve been included from the start.

Our team is a family adventure, my partner being my father-in-law. Originally, I just asked him if he’d like to help out, but after a year of competition, I’ve witnessed his own competitive juices igniting. As he gained confidence, so did his contributions to putting winning product in front of the judges. My mother-in-law is always there to lend a helping hand with the kids, or driving, or taking the initiative to get us our first team t-shirts!

But our BBQ team wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for my wife’s understanding and patience with my obsession. She gets the behind the scenes task of caring for the three kids by herself for much of the weekend, driving 2 or 3 or 4 hours with those same little angels to a competition, keeping them occupied while there. She does this with no complaint. But she’s also become an integral part of my turning out good product. She’s my “spice girl” as her pallet is a great litmus test for the amount of spice that the judges generally will accept. Her keen eye in finishing off turn-in boxes is worth several points at each competition. I’ve watched her competitive juice start to flow as well as we begin to win some awards.

So as you’re getting started, make sure you build the team on a solid foundation. My formula isn’t right for everybody, but competition BBQ doesn’t have to be an individual sport. The trips to the podium are much more enjoyable when you can share them with all your loved ones.

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