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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mid-Summer Review

July and August saw our usual competition slowdown.  July saw Three Dogs head up to Old Forge, New York  to compete in The Great Adirondack BBQ Festival.  In August, we made our yearly trek to the Hudson Valley area for the Hudson Valley Ribfest.

The Great Adirondack BBQ Festival, Old Forge, NY

This was an addition to the schedule for 2017.  We usually have a two month lay off between our last June contest and Hudson Valley.  But, we wanted to stay sharp and started to look for a July comp to do so.  This competition fit the description.  Old Forge is a great mountain town about halfway between Utica and Lake Placid.  It is a great place for a competition, other than keeping on the lookout for the occasional bear.  Martie, our at the time 7 week old Springador puppy, made her debut there.

We had the typical Three Dogs, Three Meat Cook.  8th in chicken, 7th in ribs, 11th in brisket, and a deserved 27th in pork (ouch), added up to a 13th overall.  I tell you, if competitions were three meats we would be rivaling Myron Mixon  for most GC ever.  Just kidding, but we would have at least one. But, champions seal the deal and we just haven't been able to put great product out for all four categories yet.  No excuses.

Overall, Old Forge is a great contest.  Beautiful scenery, cool weather in July, big payouts if you are lucky enough to walk top five, and the area is littered with lots of great little pubs.

I believe that Old Forge will be a regular in the Three Dogs rotation for years to come.

Hudson Valley Ribfest, New Paltz, New York.

Hudson Valley is an odd duck of a contest.  Generally, you stay in your extended area for BBQ competitions.  You know what judges like, why tempt fate?  Hudson Valley, due to its proximity, pulls teams from New England, Western NY, and the Mid-Atlantic.  It also pulls judges from all three areas.  Good teams always rise to the top, but this convergence of different regions does add an X factor to the competition.  Results are always interesting.  

It all started here for Three Dogs back in 2011.  At our first contest here, we got a walk and a check for the pizza turn in.  Hope fell in love with BBQ at that point and the rest is history.  We followed that up with a chicken wing walk the next year and our first KCBS call in 2013.  This is the only contest we have attended every year since we started competing and we always will.  The ribfest has grown a lot over the years, adding country concerts and lots of vendors.  We have fun, but this contest has never been kind to us.  Perhaps this would be the year.

Friday was load in day and we were one of the first to arrive.  That gave us the opportunity to enjoy the oppressive humidity, constant rain, and the black flies and mosquitoes.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  Mental note, five tiki torches do keep the flies and bugs away.  They also stay lit in driving rain.  Bonus...

Saturday dawned and we sauntered over the Mort's Meat Mafia to assist with the NEBS grilling.  I made our pulled pork pizza for Mort and Jeff.  Yes, this was the pizza that gave us our first walk in competitive BBQ and has yet to disappoint.  Mort took a 6th with this pizza, along with a 10th in steak, and a 9th in apple dessert for 19th overall.  We won't talk about the wrapped in bacon turn in...

Afterward, we strolled back over to our site and prepped for the KCBS cook.  Still oppressively humid, but there was a slight breeze and a front was moving in later that night.  Perhaps it would cool off a bit.

When Sunday dawned, it was noticeably cooler and less humid, good cooking weather.  Everything made it in on time and all we could do was wait for what I fondly call The Reckoning.  Now, I thought we had a good cook.  I didn't say that out loud because generally that means the judges will tear you apart.  Yes, I am superstitious like that.  Well, for once my hunch was right.  4th in ribs and our first category win with a 1st in pork added up to a 5th place overall out of 59 tough teams from all along the East Coast.

Next up, our final competition of the year, Oinktoberfest in Clarence, NY.  Stop by and say hi.  Hope to see you there.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pork Steaks - St. Louis Style

The pork steak.  Beautiful slices, thick or thin, of porky goodness straight from the pork butt.  Some white meat, some dark meat, all perfectly marbled with fat that just wants to be crispy.  If you have ever surfed the recipes on this site, I have a love affair with pork steaks.  This love affair started in Germany at a cook out that a colleague was having in his neighborhood one frosty November evening.    Yes, a cold autumn cook out is a neighborhood tradition in the wine country of Germany.  Trimmings from grape vines after they have been harvested for the upcoming wine making season make for a BBQ tradition.  On this particular evening, the families from the block gathered in the middle of the street with a rag tag assembly of grills of all shapes and sizes, numerous bottles of last years Riesling, and a lot of sausage, chicken, and pork.  The smoke from the grape vines imparts a nice sweet flavor to whatever is being cooked on the grill.  Everything was good, but I was drawn to the pork steaks.  These were sliced thick, about an inch if memory serves me correctly.  They were marinaded in a mix of white wine, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic for 24 hours.  Then they were grilled hot and fast.  Crispy pork fat on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.  The combination of the marinade and spices with the marinade hooked me for life.  This is how my love affair started with the glorious pork steak.

Over the years I have gravitated towards the marinate and grill method.  But, I have had a few conversations with the good folks over at The Good Que Crew about cooking the pork steak.  They hail from St. Louis, another area where the pork steak is a staple of a summer BBQ.  They cook them a little differently though.  Dust them with rub, sear them on the grill, then finish cooking them while swimming in BBQ sauce, foiled in a pan.  I happened to have some pork steaks in the ice cave a few weeks ago and I had a taste for BBQ.  Non-competition BBQ that is.  So, upon thawing my steaks, I set out to cook them St. Louis style.

Ingredients needed are:

4 Pork Steaks
1 Bottle of Stubbs Pork Marinade
Your favorite rub.  I used Slabs Birds and Bones.  A little sweet, savory, and no heat.  Perfect to balance the heat from the Stubbs marinade.
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.

First, I placed the pork steaks in a vacuum seal bag, dumped in the marinade, then sealed the bag.  Into the fridge they went for an overnight soak.  Every time I opened the fridge, I flipped the bag.

The next afternoon, about 16 hours of marinade time, I removed the steaks from the pouch and placed them on a cookie sheet.  I lightly dusted the top with my rub.  After 30 minutes, I flipped them over and lightly dusted the other side with the rub.  Then, I went outside to start my grill.

I set up the grill for two zone cooking.  First, I give the steaks a good sear.  About 3 minutes a side.

Next, I placed the seared steaks in a foil pan, added my BBQ sauce, then foiled tightly.

I placed the pan on indirect heat and allowed them to cook for 30 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees after the first 15 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I brought the pan inside, removed the foil, and served hot.

I gotta say, I think I like the St. Louis method for cooking pork steaks.  A little bit of crisp, tender juicy meat, a nice thin glaze of sauce.  Warning, the Stubbs marinade can have a little bit of bite, especially after 16 hours of marinading.  If you don't like heat, I would suggest a different marinade.  But it may not matter.  Hope doesn't like heat, but she suffered through the bite because she loved the flavor.  Your choice.

Have a great 4th of July.  Thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Day at the Asylum: Almost Heaven BBQ Bash

Last weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ road show packed up and headed off to the asylum.  BBQ'er's are a little crazy to be in the world of competition BBQ.  So, it was fitting that the 3rd annual Almost Heaven BBQ Bash was held on the grounds of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV.

This building is the largest hand cut sandstone building in North America and the second largest in the world.  I did not take any of the tours offered but from what I hear the history of this building, which dates back to the 1850's, is quite chilling.  Bulk lobotomies, torture rooms, holding boxes.  You get the picture.

The facility was finally shut its doors in 1994.  Since then, the building has been purchased by a local businessman who is restoring the inside to its original state.  Various historical and haunted tours are run and from what I hear, the former asylum is a must see on the list of haunted places to visit in the United States.  Definitely a unique place to hold a BBQ competition.

So, with one eye on our smokers and one eye looking over our back for ghosts, we fired up our smokers and got down to the business of smoking meat.

To add to the craziness, this competition was an auto qualifier to the Jack Daniels BBQ Championship as this is the only sanctioned BBQ contest held in West Virginia.  Win and you are in.  No sweating out the Jack Draw in August.  Consequently, this contest drew 57 of the best teams from east of the Mississippi.  The field was the toughest we have ever competed against.  How would we fare?

Well, the results were mixed.  Overall, we were very happy with our results, but we did leave some points on the table.  29th place chicken, 3rd place ribs, 37th place pork, and 19th place brisket added up to an 18th overall.  Our pork box was mixed.  "Great pulled, rubbery slices" were the comments.  We agree.  We should have left the money muscle out of the box.  The ribs were spot on, falling one taste and one tenderness point away from a 180.

But the brisket box is the story of the day...

The temperature was rising slowly on this brisket.  I could not figure out why.  When we pulled our brisket out of the foil, the flat split right down the middle.  There was a time I would have panicked.  But, we refoiled and let the brisket rest until turn in time.  I started to formulate Plan B.  Later, when we were building our brisket box, I did try to get some slices.  No luck.  Completely overdone.  I believe that my temperature probe was right in the middle of a vein of fat.  So, Plan B went into action.  I pulled the flat, chopped it up, lightly sauced, and dusted a bit with rub.  We threw it into the box with the burnt ends and crossed our fingers.  I was betting on a lower 10% finish.  You can't imagine our surprise when we came in 19th place.  We were dinged a bit on appearance scores, but the taste and tenderness saved us for sure.  We really appreciate that the judges scored what was presented to them and not what they expected to see.

Congratulations go out to Rocky Top BBQ, our GC and Wolf's Revenge, our RGC.  We would also like to thank Royal Oak Charcoal for keeping the 270 Smokers rolling smoke.  Next up is the Adirondack BBQ Festival in July.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Catching Up

It has been a busy few months around Three Dogs Headquarters.  While I would like to be able to pay the bills by making BBQ, the reality of life is that I need a real job to pay the bills and fund this addiction, um I mean hobby.  With new owners at work I have been firmly planted in front of a computer helping to carve out a small company from a huge multi-national conglomerate.  So, sitting in front of a computer is not something I feel like doing in the evenings.  But, it is time to get back in the swing of things and make this blog semi regular again.  That being said, lets catch up.  Shall we?

We have been competing.  BBQ is my escape from work.  I am happy to report, the results have been positive.  The third weekend in May found Three Dogs BBQ at the 3rd annual Salt City BBQ Festival in Syracuse, NY.

While we like to take part in competitions in downtown urban settings, the old Clinton Square location for Salt City was lacking in space and had very questionable infrastructure.  This competition was in danger of not having enough teams to be a qualifier in 2017. But, a move to the New York State Fairgrounds solved the space problem and improved the water and electric issues.  With 44 teams participating this year, I think that Salt City may have a bright future.  Toss in some very uncharacteristic Upstate New York weather for May and the weekend was shaping up nicely.  Even George was enjoying the warm weather.

As for our cook, I was not happy with how our turn ins came out.  I am happy to report the judges disagreed with my assessment.  A 9th in chicken, an 8th in ribs, a 4th in pork and a 12th in brisket added up to a 4th place overall.  A very pleasant surprise.  What hurt the brisket was a lack of burnt ends in the box.  They were mushy and just not good at all.  But, we were very happy with the 4th place overall and the chance to walk a few times.  Congrats go out to Good Smoke, our GC and to The Basic BBQ Team, our RGC.

Two weeks later we loaded up the trailer and headed up to the headwaters of the Allegheny River to Coudersport, PA to participate in the 2nd annual Conquer the Grill.  This competition is held in conjunction the Gods Country Marathon.  Why is it called the Gods Country marathon?  A few reasons I suppose.  One, it really is beautiful country up in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.

Two, Coudersport is 50 miles from the middle of nowhere.  It should be noted that I am told the Gods Country Marathon is ranked as one of the ten hardest in the world.  That might have something to do with the four mile mountain right at the mid point of the run.  But I could be wrong.

The BBQ competition is held by the finish line of the marathon.  Last year that was in the town square.  But, PennDOT decided that they had to rip Main Street, so the marathon finish and the BBQ was moved to the high school, just outside of town.

I started a rumor that if a member of a BBQ team finished the marathon and won the BBQ competition, there would be a $1000 bonus added to the prize money.  Strangely enough, I could not get any of the teams to bite on that proposition.  Instead, we tried to pass out 9:22 MABA shots at the water stations for the runners.  Again, no takers.  Such dedication.

As for our cook, I felt it was fair to midland.  When all was said and done, we ended up with a 2nd in chicken, a 3rd in ribs, a 6th in pork, and a 3rd in brisket.  That added up to a second place overall and our first Reserve Grand ever!  Needless to say, the four hour drive home was much easier to take.  Congrats goes out to Peace, Love, and Smokiness, our GC and their first as well.

We have been quite happy with our results this year.  Hopefully we can keep the train on the tracks.  Next up, Three Dogs heads down to the Almost Heaven BBQ Bash in Weston, WV.  70 of the best teams in the East will be headed to Weston with one goal in mind: winning the auto entry to the Jack. This will be a true test of our BBQ skills.  Hope to see you there.

Thanks for stopping by,