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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Experimenting with my Butts

I have to admit, I was caught a little flat footed at our first two competitions this year.  I did not know that the rules had changed for pork butt.  You never used to be able to separate your meat, then place it back on the smoker.  Now you can.  This opens up a world of possibilities.  So, off to the R&D labs.

Nothing changed withy the preparation.  Inject, rub, smoke.  Where things changed was at the 165 F point.  Here I separated my money muscle, sauced rubbed again, and placed in the cambro for later use.  I then put the remaining part of the butt back on the smoker to finishing cooking.  I did so unfoiled to promote maximum bark formation.  I then pulled this meat at 185 F, foiled, and put in the cambro to use with my money muscle.

When ready for use, I pulled the money muscle out of the cambro, sauced and rubbed again, then placed in a foil pan.  From the remains of the butt, I fashioned some burnt ends from the meatiest bark pieces.  Then I placed these in the pan with the money muscle and placed the meat back on the smoker for 20 minutes at 325 F to set the glaze.  I think it looks pretty good:

Everything was nice and tender.  I have some tinkering to do, but I was happy with the results at our first competition with the new method.

We received our best scores of the year.  Like I said, more tinkering needs to be done to dial this recipe in for good.  But, this is a good start.

Thanks for stopping by,


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sides for your BBQ. Homemade Potato Salad

Every good BBQ meal needs to have good side dishes.  Sure, we can live on meat alone, but why do so when there are so many good side dishes.  Plus, you may need a little something else to cut some of the fattiness of your meaty meal.  Today, lets dive into one of my favorite BBQ sides, potato salad.

Mine is fashioned after my Mothers recipe.  It is pretty spot on, up until the moment I add plain yellow mustard.  My Mom makes a traditional Southern white potato salad.  I like the tang that the mustard brings to the table.  A good Southerner will tell you adding mustard is blasphemy.  I call it culinary license.

For this batch, I took one and a half pounds of small, red potatoes, rinsed well and placed into my dutch oven with enough water to cover and one tablespoon of salt.

I brought my potatoes to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered while covered for 20 minutes, or until fork tender.  When cooked, I drained, rinsed with cold water, cut into quarters with the skin on, and placed in a bowl.  My Grandfather said that leaving the skins on was being lazy.  He might be right, but I like the texture the skins bring to the final product.  I'll leave that decision up to you.

To my potatoes, I add the following:

1/4 of a red onion, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
1/3 cup of sweet relish.  Alternatively, you could dice up 1/3 of a cup of sweet pickles or bread and butter chips and add an additional 1/4 of the juice from the jar.
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1/2-1 cup of mayonnaise.  I use Helmann's Light Mayo.  A half cup worked well for the 1.5 pounds of   potatoes.  Just start with 1/2 cup and add more until you get the creaminess that you desire.  Remember, you can always add, but you can't subtract.
One healthy squirt of plain yellow mustard.  Nothing scientific here.  I would say I added about 3 tbsp  worth of mustard.

Mix well, place in the refrigerator to chill, then serve.

Quick, easy, and tasty.  Substitute the potato with four cups of cooked elbow macaroni and you have my Macaroni Salad recipe as well.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, June 20, 2014

Eye of Round: Pittsburgh Rare Style

Eye of round is a great, low fat cut of beef.  Perfect for someone on a diet.  You get the nice taste of beef without all of the fat.  Problem is, it can be problematic to cook.  With the minimal fat, it can be tough and dry.  How to over come that?  Pittsburgh Rare I say.

What is Pittsburgh Rare?  Well, it is a style for cooking a steak in Pittsburgh that is a notch below rare.  There is even some Internet history about this cooking style.  If you read it on the Internet it has to be true, right?  Anyway, on to my method.

First, I took my eye of round and tenderized on all sides.

Then, I seasoned liberally on all sides of the roast with Oakridge Santa Maria Steak Seasoning and allowed the meat to sit on the counter so the rub would form a crust and the meat would come to room temperature.

While the beef was getting happy, I thick cut some tomatoes and marinaded them in some olive oil, granulated garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, sea salt, and pepper.  

Then, I went out to my grill and started a scorching hot fire.  My temperature was around 450 F.  I place the beef on direct heat over the coals and just kept turning.

Once I thought the meat was starting to get done, I placed my tomatoes on direct heat to sear off one side, then I flipped them over and placed fresh mozzarella slices on top.  Then I moved them to indirect heat to melt the cheese.

I pulled the roast when the internal temperature was at 130 F.  I wanted to pull at 125 F, but I lost track of time.

Unfortunately, I lost my pictures of the final product.  But, you will have to take my word.  The eye of round turn out a nice rare inside and was tender and juicy.  The tomatoes were perfect with just the right amount of crispy brown on top.  Next time I make this, I promise I will get some better pictures of the plated product.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Monday, June 16, 2014

Cross Boarder Blues, Brews, and Ques - Wilson, NY

This past weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ traveling road show loaded up the trailer and hit the road for Wilson, NY to take part in the KCBS competition at the Cross Boarder Blues, Brews, and Ques Festival.  As seems to be tradition, the weekend got off to a rainy start.  Just as we pulled in, it started pouring.

But, the rain stopped after about 30 minutes and we didn't get a drop the rest of the weekend.  It was beautiful, but a bit chilly from time to time.  Perfect weather for slaving over a hot smoker.

As always, we made some new friends and caught up with some old ones.  Shelly Frisch, Pitmaster from Desparados BBQ was our next door neighbor.  As you can tell from the picture, she was always hard at work tending to her pit.  Thanks for the Fireball Shelly.  Bring more the next time around!

I do question her choice of beer.  But she insists that it migrated from another team...

On to the results, shall we?

Chicken is always our best category.  Well, we are happy to report a bit of a breakthrough this weekend.

After a minor tweak to the recipe, this beautiful box of legs and breast slices scored us a 173.7144 and second place overall out of 47 teams.  We missed first place by a mere 0.022 points.  We decided to experiment with boneless breast.  If it was good it would go in the box.  If not, it would be lunch.  Well, we liked the breast.  It was tender and juicy and looked great.  But, did it work?

One judge loved the legs, but said the breast was dry, scoring us a 7.  The other five judges seemed to like it.  Did the breast help with the other five judges and hurt with the sixth?  Who knows.  We will be adding breast again.

After a strong start to the season, our ribs are hurting us again.  We scored a 157.6800, good for 30th. I just can't seem to find consistency with our rib cooks.  I am considering a switch to baby backs.  Also, based on the comment card, we appear to be too sweet.  Too sweet of a rib on the KCBS circuit.  Is that possible?  Maybe we need to take the extra sugar out.  There is some R&D work in our near future.

I did not know earlier in the season that the pork rules had changed.  Unlike in the past, you can put your meat back in the smoker after cooking and then separating.  So, we practiced a bit and it payed off for us.  This box scored a 162.8000 and 21st out of 47.  I can live with that score moving forward.  Just some minor tweaks needed here.

Brisket has come back to be an issue.  This one was a bit over cooked, therefore the larger slices to help out with texture.  This box was good for 157.7372 and 23rd place.  I need to do a bit more research to come up with a more consistent product.

Where to start with kudos?  Well, Frank and Carol Tutzauer, our event organizers deserve a big round of applause.  Carol's breakfast on Saturday rocked!  Sliced pork loin in Cajun style gravy, served over grits.  That was a stick to your ribs breakfast.  No swag bag?

No worries.  Free growlers and a free fill from Woodcock Brothers Brewing awaited us.  Keep up the good work guys.

Our good friend Che Baird from Taurus BBQ scored a first place in ribs.  Congrats and good work.  I still say that your substitute Don cooked the ribs.  Just saying.

When you get a comment card like that, you are doing something right.

Next, congrats go out to our Grand Champions, Spittin Feathers BBQ.  I've known Tim for years as a fellow Stump owner.  You couldn't meet a nicer guy.  Good work my friend, you deserve this one.

Congrats also go out to John Thomson with Team Eatapedia, our Reserve Grand Champion and our foil in the chicken category.  Well played.  Maybe we can find the 0.022 points the next time.

We have a bit of a break now.  Next up is the Hudson Valley Ribfest in August.  Some well deserved time off for Three Dogs BBQ to rest and recuperate.  Maybe even a little bit of R&D as well.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mega Meat Dogs: a.k.a. The Gut Bomb

I have been on a diet since the beginning of March.  Nothing fancy or faddish in nature.  I am not drinking wheat grass smoothies and getting espresso enemas.  It has just been counting calories, watching portion size, and working in some exercise.  I haven't changed what I eat a bit and I am almost 30 pounds down.  Looking good if you ask me.  But, one of the big secrets to good dieting is to not deprive yourself.  If you want something, eat it.  Just don't eat five of them.  This leads me to our post today: the Mega Meat Dog.

I have wanted a hot dog for awhile.  I also had come chili sauce stored away in the freezer.  As I was tooling through the BBQ pages in Facebook, I saw someone make a creation like I am about to show you.  The minute I saw it, I decided this was going to be a splurge dinner one day after I mowed the lawn.  Something to reward myself.  So, I give you, the Mega Meat Dog.

First, I bought two pounds of ground pork from my butcher and one pack of kosher beef hot dogs from the local grocery store.  I also had some bacon lying around as well.

Next, I took the ground pork, placed into a large mixing bowl, and incorporated three tbsp of BBQ rub for pork.  You can use whatever you have on hand.  I used Oakridge Secret Weapon Pork and Chicken rub.  After the pork was ready, I took a decent sized ball of meat, about three ounces, placed into a quart sized plastic bag, and mashed it flat.

Then, I cut open the bag, placed the hot dog in the middle, and wrapped the pork around the hog dog.

If that wasn't enough meat product, I then took two slices of bacon and wrapped that round the outside of my pork encased hot dog.

I lit my smoker and brought to 300 F and placed some hickory in the ash pan.  Then, I placed these meaty delights on the top rack to cook.

While these were cooking away, I retrieved the chili sauce from the freezer and warmed up on the stove top until hot and bubbly.  For good measure, I finely diced a sweet onion to use for a topping as well.

45 minutes later the bacon was crispy and the ground pork was cooked.  Time to bring these gut bombs inside and assemble.

No standard hot bog buns here.  They could be too small and easily torn.  I needed something that could hold Megadog and some chili as well.  Therefore, I purchased some nice sausage rolls to encase these treats.

I spread some chili sauce on the bottom of the roll along with some diced onion, then I nestled a bacon wrapped, pork encased, beef hot dog on top.  Oh, and I threw some corn on the side to make my place look somewhat healthy.

After one, I was stuffed.  Hope had a half.  The Mega Meat Dog even took its measure of the youngest.  Ty could only manage one and a half of these decidedly non-vegan treasures.

The bacon was perfectly crisp.  The ground pork was seasoned nicely and developed a nice smoke flavor.  After each bite, the hot dog within added a nice finish that only a previously kosher dog can do.  The chili sauce only added to the meat party going on inside this bun.  If I had only made some slaw for the top of this hybrid dog.

This creation will be a very rare treat around the Three Dogs household.  Once or twice a year perhaps.  The Mega Meat Dog even scared my carnivore wife.  Maybe, you will see this symphony of meat entered into a future "Wrapped in Bacon" category at a future NEBS event.  Don't shy away, I suggest you give this recipe a try when your inner caveman is yearning for some meat.  Or, when you have been on a diet and deserve a little treat.

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, June 7, 2014

For the Vegetarian in your Life: Roasted "Pulled" Cauliflower

You can't live on meat alone, right?  Well, some of us do try.  But, I do like my veggies and we do try new things with them in the Three Dogs household.  One of our new favorite dishes around here is roasted cauliflower.  You basically take a head of cauliflower, separate into individual florets, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast for 45 minutes at 400 F until brown and crispy.  It tastes nothing like the boiled or steamed mush that must be drowned in cheese sauce to make it palatable.  I highly suggest to give this dish a try.

Last weekend, I was making some pulled pork for a potluck lunch at work and remembered that one of our engineers was a vegetarian.  He has never eaten meat in his entire life.  Well, except for the bite of a roll last Christmas that he did not know was filled with sausage goodness.  But, he spit it out, so it doesn't count.  Anyway,  I didn't want to leave him out of the BBQ fun.  So, I did a little experimentation with the roasted cauliflower concept and was quite happy with the results.

First, we separated the head of cauliflower into florets.

This was a fairly large head of cauliflower, so I drizzled with four tablespoons of olive oil and two heaping tablespoons of Oakridge BBQ Secret Weapon Pork and Chicken rub.  I tossed the florets until all were coated well with the olive oil and rub.  Then I spread them evenly on two cookie sheets sprayed with cooking spray.

I placed the cookie sheets into a 400 F smoker with some hickory wood and let them roast for 45 minutes, rotating the sheets after 20 minutes of cook time.  Then, I pulled the cookie sheets out of the smoker and placed the roasted cauliflower into a large mixing bowl.  After sampling a few pieces of roasted goodness, I put about 1/4 of a cup of Blues Hog Smokey Mountain BBQ Sauce that had be thinned with about 2 tbsp of Blues Hog Tennessee Red.  I mixed thoroughly, then placed the sauced cauliflower back into the smoker for 15 more minutes to set the glaze.  Here is the final product.

I could have eaten the whole pan before I put the sauce on the roasted cauliflower.  Those nutty tasting caramelized bits of cauliflower were crunchy goodness.  The BBQ rub, with the spices and sugars, made the taste even better.  But, after adding the sauce, while the flavor was still there, there was something missing.  The taste was very good.  Maybe the issue was that the cauliflower lost some of its crunch after saucing.  I was happy with the result.  But, if you make this for yourself or the vegetarian in your life, I would recommend putting the cup of sauce on the side for dipping.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Biscuit Test

Believe it or not, in the four years that I have owned my smokers, I have never performed "The Biscuit Test" inside my cookers.  I thought it was time to do so this past weekend.

What is the biscuit test you ask?  Well first, you buy a few cans of the cheapest biscuits you can find in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Then, you bring them home and fire your smoker up to whatever temperature you like.  I used 300 F for this test.  Then, you spread the biscuits out evenly on your smoker racks and let them bake.  As they brown, you can determine where the hot spots are in your smoker.

Stumps Baby

The picture is not great, but as you can tell, my Baby is hotter on the right side with the hottest spot being the right rear.  There was only a slight difference from the top rack to the second rack.  But, the lower rack was slightly cooler.

Stumps Junior

Junior top rack

Junior middle rack

My Junior runs hot on the right side and along the back.  I was a bit surprised to see this.  Also, the middle rack was noticeably warmer than the top rack.  

Why would you want to know this?  Knowing the heat profile of your cooker can help you to speed up or slow down the speed at which your meat cooks.  This can help you gain an edge in a competition.  It can also help you to crisp up that skin on your chicken entry.  Have an older oven at home?  You can run the same test in your oven to determine where your hot spots are in your non-convection oven.  Believe me, my old oven had them.  Why do you think your cookie recipes tell you to rotate your cookie sheets halfway through your bake?  

Now, will someone please send butter and blackberry jam?  I don't have enough.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go rotate my butts.

Thanks for stopping by,