Monday, March 3, 2014

Marinated Cucumbers, Onions, and Tomatoes Salad

Want a simply, refreshing, and pretty darn healthy salad that is a little bit different than the norm?  Give this a try.

Marinated Cucumbers, Onions, and Tomatoes

3 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion, sliced and separated into rings
3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dive Pigs New Pit! And burning it in.

Well it finally happened!  The new pit has arrived!  A custom build from R&O Smokers who did an amazing job!  Lots of space, held heat awesome, insulated fire box, running water with the sink and room to spare.  The R & O gang was great to work with and I look forward to doing more business with them.  

This has been awhile in the making.  Did a lot of research, did a lot of searching, and even more important had to get permission from the boss, AKA my wife, to purchase this bad boy.  It was a combination Birthday, Father's Day, and Christmas present but so worth it.

We picked the pit up on Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 from R&O Smokers and got the beast home that night.  Unfortunately with my work schedule and everything I wasn't able to burn it in til Saturday morning, which is the day we were doing a Father's Day cook.  Turned out alright though.

Wednesday (06/12/2013): Picked up the Pit
Thursday (06/13/2013): Trip to Costco for 6 Racks of Ribs (3 racks St Louis Cut and 3 racks Pork Loin Baby Backs) along with a huge bag of wings.
Saturday (06/15/2013): Burn in followed by Ribs, Wings, BBQ Baked Beans, and Slaw. (Baked Beans and Wings I'd never done before!).

Got up around 6am, pulled the pit out of the garage, and fired it up using Oak initially.  Our pit is a off-set wood burner that uses an insulated firebox. The design allows the heat to flow across the top of the meat and not from underneath. 

Took a little tweaking to get the dampers set, learn the fuel size / amount, make sure it was level, and all that but managed to lock it in at 265-270 pretty easy.  There was less than a 3 degree temperature difference from end to end of the cooking area.  Learned that a 4" round stick approximately 12" in length is just about spot on.  I will have to go rent a splitter and get everything done cause I will say this - using a hatchet / axe to size everything took a lot of work!

Once I'd finished dialing in the pit temps and burning the pit for around 4 hours, I headed back inside to start the meat prep.

My teammate Craig wasn't able to be there (due to last minute planning on my part) however my friend Josh came over to help as did my twin brother Joe.  Meat prep took a little longer than usual but I remember when I first started learning about BBQ and having to do it all on my own.  So since I love BBQ I decided to take the time and show them what I do and the techniques I've learned.  My passion for BBQ means that the best way for learning is to ask questions and get off my butt and COOK!

I won't bore you with all the pics my twin snapped as he was learning the process but I will say they definitely learned how to remove the membrane from the back of ribs!  Some swear that you have to remove it and others don't - me I remove it.  My ribs turn out better.

Got the ribs all trimmed up and seasoned with my home made rub then let them set for about an hour covered while I went outside to make sure the pit was at temp and get some pecan wood burning. Pit dialed in at 270-275, then went inside and grabbed the ribs.

Right after putting the ribs on, I moved to the other end of the pit and added some bacon.  Mmmm BACON!  The bacon I smoked for about 45 minutes then removed and added to the Baked Beans I had cooking up in the crock pot.

After the ribs were on for ~2 hours, meat side up at 275 I flipped them and smoked for another hour meat side down.

I used to not flip them but after reading about the technique and and reading a few threads on the BBQ Brethren forums I decided to try it out and have now made it a part of my process.  It works for me and I like it.

After 3 hours of smoke at 275 I pulled the ribs.  Sorry I didn't get a good picture of the ribs bones just starting to pull away - not a lot just a little pull ... and brought the ribs in for wrapping.

This is me wrapping the ribs.  Some people on the boards are for it and others are against it.  In competition you almost always need to wrap but people say at home just cook em and call it good.  I've done it both ways - I like my ribs wrapped.  I get better color, tenderness, and avoid an over smoked piece of meat.

I wrap my ribs in 2 layers of heavy foil with the addition of brown sugar, honey, butter, and our secret spice mix (special blend developed by my buddy and teammate Craig).

After wrapping I put them back on the pit at 275 for roughly another 2 hours.  Around 90 minutes I grab one to check to see how the bone is pulling away.  If its a pulling away clean then I take them off, if not I let them cook for the remaining 30 minutes. 

Can't see it super clean here but if you look close you can note about a 1/4" + where the meat has pulled way from the bone.

I transfer the ribs to new foil, double layers, apply my home made sauce to the back side, flip them over and add sauce to the meat side along with a sprinkling my home made rub.  I then wrap them up tightly and place in a warmer box for an additional hour.  The heat in the ribs tightens up the sauce and finishes up the cooking process.  Great tenderness without it falling off the bone.

Now for the wings!  The dilemma:  My pit temp for the ribs was at 275 yet the wings needed to cook at 350.  

I had the wings inside covered in some rub and was ready to bring them out to the pit. I knew I was going to cook them at 350 for roughly 1.5 hours (thanks to help from some of the brethren). Problem was that I had 30 minutes of pit share time. So I took a chance.

Put the wings on at 275 for 30 minutes. Pulled the ribs, threw on another stick of pecan, opened the pit up a bit ... was awesome to see it jump from 275 to 350 within about 5 minutes. At around an hour into the wing cook I spritzed them with some olive oil, flipped them, spritzed them and let them finish off. They crisped up awesome and flavor was fantastic as my wife put it. I'll tweak the rub a little but I can honestly I will never fry another wing again!

Meant to take some pics of the finished products but with 20+ people there the masses killed it all!

Over all I learned that a quality smoker makes a HUGE difference. Thanks again to R & O Smokers for making me an awesome quality pit!  I didn't need a water pan, I didn't need to worry about the wind killing temp, the insulated firebox + 4" stick rocked the temp I love cooking at. Over all I had a great Father's Day - which by the way was my first. My son is 5 months old. Hopefully I'll pass the pit on to him one day.

More BBQ to come!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Texas Monthly interviews Aaron Franklin

Good story with a great read. 

Interview with Aaron Franklin

Aaron Franklin
Owner/Pitmaster: Franklin Barbecue in Austin; opened in 2009

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Texas's Top 50 BBQ

Texas Monthly recently hired the writer of Full Customer Gospel BBQ to head up their Food review section of the magazine and really focus on BBQ.  With that said, Texas Monthly just released a Top 50s BBQ joints list for the state of Texas.

Looking it over, it appears I have a few stops to be making.

Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ

These are on my list and will soon be sampled... ;)

- Meshack's Bar-B-Que

- Hutchins BBQ

- Lockhart Smokehouse
- Pecan Lodge

- Bartley's Bar-B-Q

Fort Worth
- Cousin's Bar-B-Q
- Longoria's BBQ

The rest, well I foresee road trips a coming. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

1st cook on the Traeger - Bone in Pork Shoulders

So thanks to my buddy Andy Tarczon I have a working Traeger Lil Texas Elite. He had two of them, one wasn't working so said I could have I wanted.  I said sure.  A $100 bucks later and I had it up and running. 

Finally had the time to do my first test cook on it; turned out great but I learned a couple things.

1.  It is way more efficient than my old run of mill "ole cheap-o" from Academy. 
2.  Pellet Fed smokers are pretty nice for the set it and forget it.  On my wood burner I have check the fire ever 45 minutes.  The Traeger I just set the temp and made sure the pellet container was full.  This time I used Apple Pellets. I will write more on the Traeger after a couple more cooks.

So on to the main reason you are reading this blog, the BBQ.

Normally, I cook Boneless Pork Shoulders however this time I ended up at Sam's Club with my friend Josh and ended up getting 2 Bone In Pork Shoulders.

Got them home, Trimmed them up (I don't trim a lot off. Usually the fat caps I remove the really hard fat and then do some clean up.  After the trimming I inject. (Apple Juice, White Vinegar, Sugar, Spice).  After the injection in the fridge it goes for about 2 - 3 hours.

For this cook, the shoulders rested in the injection/marinade for about 2 hours.  I took them out, patted them dry, and then rubbed them down. Sweet and Spicy rub - home made. 

Now for where my cook procedure or steps change a little.  On my old smoker, I'd bring it up to temp at 250 and start the cook.  However on the Traeger you need to set it for SMOKE, smoke the meat for set time frame, then turn up the temp and finish  your cook. This is the shoulders after 2 hours at SMOKE setting.

After the two hours at the SMOKE setting, I set the Traeger to 275 which actually averages closer to 250-260 and smoked the shoulders for 8 more hours.  2 hours uncovered, 5 hours covered, then the last hour uncovered so I could glaze them every 20 minutes. Finished product and getting read to let it rest for 2 hours.

After 2 hours of resting, I pulled the pork and then pulled some drippings over the shredded pork.  SO FARKING GOOD!

As for Bone-In vs No Bone - no real difference.  Cooks a little different but not much.  Biggest difference was the coloring on some of the meat.  The meat next to the bone was more grey while the rest was well, more white and pink from Smoke and rub.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On the search for good Sausage

On the search for good Sausage

Since I do not have the time right now to learn to make my own sausage (some day I will) I took to the forums and the web and started doing some searching. As I prefer to support local or State of Texas companies these are what I've found that I will be trying out over the next month or so.

I will post pricing, texture, and flavoring opinions. I will also cook both via Smoker and over a direct heat grill.

South Side Market Eglin Tx.
Have been told their Jalapeno & Chedder ROCKS!

Oldtown Meat Market

Kuby's Sausage House

Hirsch's Meat

Types of Sausage to look for:
Conecuh Smoked Sausage
Slovaceks Jalapeno & Cheese

If anyone has any other suggestions or recommendations please let us know.

 Image from Hirsch's Meat Market (

Dry Aging Beef

Always read about Dry Aging Beef, and kind of understood what it meant but had never really looked into the process or what makes it better or worse.

While trolling through one of my favorite forums (The BBQ Brethren) I saw a post someone had made on the very subject leading to an article on the web.  Thought I'd share that very article.

Dry Aging At Home

Quick definition of Dry Aging: Dry aging is done by hanging meat in a controlled, properly managed, and refrigerated environment. Temperature should be between 36 degrees F and freezing. If you get it to cold, the meat freezes and stops the aging process.  You get it to warm and the meat will spoil. Humidity control is also needed to reduce water loss. Humidity should be around 85.  Proper air flow is required to prevent bacteria from running a muck and destroying the meat; often the meat will be suspended (hung) and a fan on low setup to blow around the meat. 

Example of a Dried Meat chamber.
    Image from: