15 December 2011

10 Best BBQ/Grilling Gift Ideas

One of the best tools when it comes to cooking meat is the Thermapen™. There are several cuts of meat that have a small window of perfect doneness, and the only way to nail it every time is with a Thermapen™. With 3-second readings and High accuracy to ±0.7°F, no other thermometer can match it. Note: the red one is the fastest.

There is no better way to explore your horizons than with new cookbook Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers

Whole Beast Butchery: The Complete Visual Guide to Beef, Lamb, and Pork

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

If you are looking strictly for a BBQ cookbook, I would go with one of these:

Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue: Barbecue Your Way to Greatness With 575 Lip-Smackin' Recipes from the Baron of Barbecue

Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint

Serious Barbecue: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking

Who doesn't love a good knife? Knives are the essential cooking tool, and you can never have too many. Here are a couple of good options:

Need a brisket slicer? Check out the Forschner Fibrox 12" Granton Edge Slicer.

How bout a nice Japanese Knife? The Shun Pro Usuba 6.5" is a really nice choice.

Edge Pro Knife Sharpening Kit
Once you have sharpened a knife with the Edge Pro, you will never use any other method. This kit allows you to get a mirror finish on a blades edge. If you are ever in a pinch and need to shave with a household kitchen knife, I would be sure to sharpen it with the edge pro first. There is no gimmick, and the price tag kinda gives that away, but you will never have to use another sharpening system again.

Big Green Egg
Why not go all out and get an egg. You know you want one, and what better time to splurge than at Christmas. They come in all shapes and sizes, so I'm sure you can find the one that is right for the special person on your list. Note: just because they may already have an Egg does not mean that they couldn't use another one.

The Pig Tail Food Flipper
A great alternative to the bbq tool set. Easily flip and handle smaller cuts of meat. I recommend the medium or small version. The largest one is just too big.

A BBQ Class
For the serious bbq'er in your life, look into some of these cooking classes.

Pellet Envy Competition BBQ Classes

Bub-Ba-Q Competition Cooking Class

Jack's Old South Cooking School

Chimney Starter
Most grill masters are probably already using one of these, but if you've seen a bottle of lighter fluid at your buddies house, by all means buy them a chimney starter. If they are using the lighter fluid in other ways you might want to check into this.

Epicurean Cutting Board
These cutting boards are rock solid. I have two of them that I use daily, and they are still as good as new after 5+ years.

What goes better with meat than booze? This one is really up to your preference, because most booze goes with bbq. Well everything except these:

13 December 2011

10 Worst BBQ/Grilling Gift Ideas

Apron Sets
No one really wants one of these things.

BBQ Tool Set
If you want to get someone a nice spatula or tongs, that's fine. However, the items that come in these sets are crap.

Bacon Themed Anything
These were slightly funny about two years ago, but don't waste your money.

Hamburger Press
If you feel like someone needs a hamburger press, they probably shouldn't be making hamburgers.

Fork Thermometer
You shouldn't poke you meat with a fork to turn it or to get the temp of it, and the thermometer on these is about as accurate as this guy.

Grill Branding Iron
Clever idea? In theory maybe, but they don't work very well. Beef is too dark for it to really show up, and your chicken and pork really don't need to be branded for any reason.

Indoor Grill
A true grill master will fire up the grill in snow, sleet, rain, or a tornado. Also these things are a bitch to clean up.

I Can't Believe It's a Lighter
Is that a shotgun shell? That's a cute little camera. No, they are lighters silly.

Themed BBQ Sauce
Really? I like Georgia, but I don't need some generic bbq sauce just because it says Georgia on it.

Bottle Brush
Have you ever tried to use one of these? If you have, you would never buy this for someone.

Check back tomorrow for the 10 Best BBQ/Grill Gifts.

30 September 2011

BBQ Sauce of the Week: Southern Soul's Sweet Georgia Soul

Southern Soul BBQ restaurant in St. Simons, GA has not been around for 100 years, but don’t tell that to Griffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp. The two proprietors of Southern Soul BBQ have quickly put their BBQ joint on the map by cooking low and slow traditional bbq. They have been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and pitmaster Harrison Sapp appeared on season 2 of BBQ Pitmasters. This publicity only showed America what the locals already knew: that these two were putting out some damn fine que.

Their Sweet Georgia Soul sauce may have the appearance of a Kansas City style sauce, but at the first taste, you quickly realize that St. Simons Georgia is ways off from KC. The base is tomato, but you pick up mustard and pepper undertones right away. While strong mustard flavors may seem strange to some, it is truly a staple in this region (see the yellow area of the map below). Even though this sauce is named Sweet Georgia Soul, the slight sugary sweetness that you get is outweighed by a black pepper kick, but that only gets high marks in my book. Overall, it is very versatile sauce that has a smooth finish, and works great on chicken and pork.

While I am not the foremost expert on the sauces of this region, I can say that I have had more than a few sauces from this area, and Southern Soul’s Sweet Georgia Soul stacks up with the best of them.

Grade: A

25 September 2011

Turning Up The Heat

sausage, habanero puree, habanero extract, jalapeno, hot banana pepper, sprinkled with fresh cayenne

18 September 2011

Shrimp Creole

shrimp stock creole sauce shrimp creole

27 August 2011

ramen momofuku style via lucky peach

steeping kombu making broth tare - roasted chicken back, bacon, sake, mirin, soy ramen with pork, 6 min 10 sec egg, nori, and myojo chukazanmai noodles

03 August 2011


Just when you think you've seen everything...along comes just-add-water instant barbecue sauce. Seriously.

Although the idea of just-add-water barbecue sauce may seem unusual, to those familiar with the Shirley J line of products, it should come as no surprise. Shirley J offers a full line of instant just-add-water food products - everything from sauces and seasonings to all manner of doughs. The company sells the products through their website, but also through a network of home-based sellers.

Making the sauce really is just as simple as adding water. It's one part powder and three parts water, but you can tweak it thicker or thinner as you see fit. I mixed some up right here at work.

The sauce has a reddish brown color with flecks of spices suspended throughout. The texture is a little bit grainy, but I'm not sure if that's because it came from a powder or because of the spices. Flavor is sweet and tomatoey and tangy and vinegary at first, giving way to significant notes of mustard, onion, garlic, lemon, and pepper. The heat level is mild.

Overall, the sauce is much better than I was expecting it to be, having come from a powder, but still not on par with really good traditonally packaged barbecue sauces. I should note that the package mentions that simmering the sauce for 2-3 minutes will improve results.

Grade: B-

28 July 2011


Here in Nashville, you see a lot of stuff named after Andrew Jackson. I realize that there are places and things named after the man all over the country, but those all use "Jackson". Here in Nashville, we prefer to use Jackson's nickname - Old Hickory.

But Old Hickory Bar-B-Q is not in Nashville, Tennessee, but rather Owensboro, Kentucky. Owensboro, which actually calls itself the "Bar-B-Q Capital of the World", is better known for its International Bar-B-Q Festival and for the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. But the locals will tell you that the best barbecue in town is at Old Hickory. Mutton is the specialty in these parts, along with a kind of barbecue stew called burgoo. Perhaps someday soon we will do a report on Old Hickory and Owensboro barbecue, but for today we're just looking at the sauce.

First of all, I dig the label and I dig the Ball jar, both of which probably have not changed in decades. The sauce is ultra-thin and has a deep dark red color. The aroma is of worcestershire sauce and vinegar, and the taste is more of the same. There is a strong savory element, followed by a bright tartness and a hint of tomatoey sweetness. There is a subtle peppery aftertaste. This seems to be a sauce that's made specifically to complement the barbecue it accompanies, so tasting it alone might be kind of misleading. But even on its own, this is a unique sauce - much more worcestershire flavor than your normal vinegar-based sauce.

Grade: B

23 July 2011

Sweet and Spicy Pickles

Last week I had a little pickling disaster. I went through the whole process of making a nice big quart of sweet and spicy pickles, and on the last step of the water bath, my jar cracked. My last hour of work was just floating in a pool of failure. Not to be out done by some fragile glass, I set out to make another batch this weekend. I found some nice cukes and hot peppers at the farmers market, and bought new and shiny Ball jars. No breaks this time. Now we play the waiting game. In a few weeks we will know if the effort was worth it.

22 July 2011

New Meat Curing Chamber

Scored this True GDM-26 fridge (that's 26 cubic feet) on Craigslist for $50.  I'm going to make a few mods, and it will become a meat curing chamber.  This pic does not show the Dr. Pepper wrap, but more to come. 

12 July 2011

Stove Monkeys T-Shirt Giveaway: Caption Contest

Our friends at Stove Monkeys have some of the best food related t-shirts around, and you could be the lucky recipient of one. We are giving away this 'I Love Pork' shirt to someone out there on the interwebs. All you have to do is come up with a funny caption for this picture:

Damn you public healthcare!
Then post it in the comments and also tweet @StoveMonkeys or post on the Stove Monkeys facebook page. We will select a winner on Friday July 15th at 10am. Good Luck.

17 June 2011

Bonnaroo X: The Evolution of 'Roo Food

Long, long ago, in the first years of the festival on the farm (circa 2002 - 2003), the hippies roamed the rolling hills of Manchester with their dreadlocked hair, their patchwork clothing, their hula hoops and their handmade signs advertising "free hugs" hanging from the open back of their vintage minibuses. In addition to their random drum circle formations, they organized themselves in rows down Shakedown Street for post-show vending. You could grab a grilled cheese, a veggie quesadilla, the popular chicken bacon ranch wrap (man, that was dank), even semi-exotic bottles of beer brought from the different regions from whence the carpools came. Sure, there was no regulation or food safety inspection - you just couldn't look at the hands, or worse, the fingernails of your chef - but the food was hot, cheap and served with a smile. Goo balls and other heady treats were available in every variety, if that was your thing. Trades welcome.

Some festival goers bought the $7 funnel cakes and $6 corn dogs from the carny-style food vendors set up in the fledgeling Centeroo commons, but no one was going for their $3 bottles of water or $4 popsicles as every other car in the lot had a stocked cooler with your choice of $1 water, Gatorade, beer or 2-for-1 freezer pops. And while I'm sure the reasons that festival officials provided for the lock down on lot vending that began in the third year included buzz words such as 'safety' and 'cleanliness' - it was all about the green.

The lineup of bands grew more and more commercial with each passing year, and with the decreasing dominance of the jam and increasing crackdown on unlicensed vending (quickly eliminating not only their lot food, but also their sales of glass wares, posters, clothing, etc. that in many cases funded their travel from show to show), the strength of the hippie numbers was weakened. By 2010, I was walking down a Shakedown Street full of 100% commercial vendors.

As Bonnaroo, and most notably, Centeroo, has evolved over the years, the food offerings slowly expanded as well. The carnival food has remained (and don't think I'm dissing the genre - it's just not necessarily something you want to live on for four days), but the options have grown from all-things-deep-fried to include vegan burritos, chicken curry, southern BBQ, breakfast buffets, cajun delicacies, rice bowls, pad thai, pitas and more. Of course, after the $2,000 vendor entry free and hefty 25% to 35% cut by the 'roo (depending on the "complexity of menu"), the prices we're asked to pay are pretty gross. But at Bonnaroo, food is fuel. Spilling out of That Tent or Which Stage, you need sustenance, your camp is far away, and you unflinchingly produce your wallet.

One of the more popular items this year was the arepa - a fried fat pancake made of ground corn, served with various savory toppings or used like a bun around sausage. The pizza tents tend to have long lines as well and 'rooers can get a hot slice from the well-oiled festival vending machine that is 'I ♥ Spicy Pie' at several locations throughout the farm. In their second year to travel to Tennessee, the certified organic Full of Life Wood Fired Flatbread Pizzas out of Los Alamos, California was wildly popular too: they were sold out of everything except a few flax pizzas by early Sunday afternoon.

But this year, Bonnaroo further stepped up their vending game with the addition of the Food Truck Oasis. In a sneaky spot between This Tent and the water slides, the food truck caravan lifted their shutters and served a reported 12,000 dirty attendees each day. We honed in on the 1962 silver airstream trailer from Miami, the gastroPod, and ordered a crispy white corn arepa (with a poached egg and slaw) along with the Sloppy Jose - a brisket slider with espresso BBQ sauce. The Taco Bus, also from Florida, served authentic Mexican street food while Good You out of Kansas City had a hefty waiting line for their organic burgers. (On principle, I could not eat at an establishment that used the Curlz typeface for their logo.) Knoxville's own Petro's offered their tasty bowls of chili and chips while Pot Kettle Black out of Charleston, SC sold out of their soulful sandwiches, crafted to honor their "poor immigrant roots" with nods to Italian and French dishes. The truck with the most flava, if you will, was most certainly Eatbox - serving the world's "sexiest" gourmet meatballs with heaping sides of pun and innuendo. Their disco ball drew you in, but their meatballs (including the Dirty South grass-fed beef meatball with bacon and hashbrowns and the Daisy Chain eggplant-lentil veggie meatball) and organic handmade popsicles drew visitors back multiple times. Local all-natural Angus beef farmers Bear Creek set up their trailer as well (though not in the designated square - clearly an autonomous unit for mid-Mall snacking) to sell burgers.

Always on the environmentally-friendly side, Bonnaroo brought back Planet Roo this year as well and offered a conscious eating experience at the 100% waste-free Planet Roo Cafe that offered fresh produce from Middle Tennessee (grilled sweet potatoes, baby spinach salads) along with higher-brow dishes such as pan-seared trout and pecan stir-fry. I couldn't get in the door with all of the people congratulating themselves for being in there. I joke wichoo.

And Bonnaroo brought the beer this year as well with a Broo'ers Festival tent featuring 21 breweries including Nashville local Yazoo Brewery, Athens-born Terrapin Beer, Vermont's Magic Hat, Brooklyn Brewery, Good People Brewing Co. from Alabama, and Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia. Our beer of choice for the weekend was from the Virginia brewery Starr Hill - their Lucy, Festie, Northern Lights and Amber Ale varieties were served at no charge in the Artist's tent by the four hardest working men at Bonnaroo.

But let's face it, you don't go to Bonnaroo for the food. Like the rest of your life that you leave behind, your at-home eating tendencies, your all-organic grocery shopping and your general food snobbery tends to disappear the moment that you step onto the farm. The food is just another aspect of the evolving experience, getting bigger and more carefully crafted (for better or worse) each year. Try new bands, new products, new food, new realities, but what really matters is that you drink lots of water.

See you next year!