Tuesday, May 31, 2005 


Or is it Rib-o-licious?

Anyway, on Saturday I cooked up two racks of ribs as another step in my practice for the Harpoon BBQ championship in July. I did each rack with a different spice rub of mine, and brought them to dinner with Grampy and his girlfriend. There were some other family members there as well, and they got a good response. There was also a clear preference for the sweeter of the two rubs - The Howling Hog Triple Chile Rub. I'm going to post some more details about my line of spice rubs in the next few weeks, as I'm preparing to market them a little more aggressively at Farmer Girl's farm stand.

Oh, yeah unfortunately, my camera was out of power, so no pictures of the ribs. But take it from me - they looked freakin' great.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005 

Product Review: Char-Griller Super Pro

Here's a brief review of my new Char-Griller "Super Pro" with the Side Mounted Firebox. As I said, my father bought the unit for me this weekend. The model he bought came from Lowes.


Assembly was pretty easy, although the instructions themselves were poorly written. Fortunately, this grill is similar in many ways to my Silver Smoker, so I was able to successfully assemble by "feel".

Although it came in a smaller box, this unit's smoking chamber (on the right in the picture below) is deeper and taller. As you can also see, the firebox is mounted on the right hand side of it, which was convenient for me because my Silver Smoker's firebox is mounted on the opposite side making the placement of the two grills perfect.

What I like:

  • Size. It's bigger than what I've got now.
  • The unit has 4 cast-iron grills. The cast iron should hold up better than the standard steel.
  • It has removable ash pans in both the primary chamber and the off-set firebox.

  • The ash pan in the primary chamber also acts as a fat channel that guides fat toward the drain in the bottom.

What I didn't like:

  • I think the side vent is too small. I had to open the ash drawer on it a couple of times when my heat wouldn't rise.

I think the vent on my Silver Smoker is better, plus it has a door which gives you a much larger draft option when you're starting it. The door access vs. drawer access also makes it easier for me to start a fire using a blowtorch - my preferred method.

  • The installation instructions. They were lousy. No doubt about it.
  • The thermometer on top of it is useless and poorly sealed (after a night of rain it was ½ full of water). Of course, you should take your chamber temps from grill level anyway, so it doesn't really matter.
  • The warming rack. There's really nothing wrong with it but I want vertical space as much as I want horizontal space. I didn't opt to install mine. It allows me to do things like Beer Can Chicken without another rack getting in the way.

All in all, It's a REALLY solid piece of grilling equipment. Particularly when you consider the $170.00 price tag. For an amateur, or a serious Que'er on the cheap (like me!), it's fantastic.

Having used the Silver Smoker nearly four years now, I think I'm going to really enjoy the extra space. Kudos to father BlueMule for the gift!


Tuesday, May 24, 2005 

A new addition!

My father came over from Maine for the weekend to help Farmer Girl do some work around the farm. To my surprise, he also came bearing gifts! Knowing that I’m soon to compete at the Harpoon Championship of NE BBQ, he graciously added another grill to my collection.

Three generations of BlueMule's family at work!

I'll be doing a review of this grill in the next few days.



Birthday Que for the Brewer!

The Brewer’s birthday was yesterday (5/23), so I invited the knucklehead and his lovely wife up to our place for so BBQ and socializing. He’s a big fan of anything Que’d, so I knew this would be the best birthday gift I could give him.

I slow cooked beef brisket, pork shoulder and chicken on my new grill (more on the new grill later). Since I timed the food to come off the grill around 3:00 in the afternoon, I got up at 5:30 and started smoking the stuff around 7:00 once the grills were hot.

Here’s what the meat looked like in process:

This was a really good practice session for me. I was most pleased with the brisket. This was only the third time I’d ever done it and it finally came out tender. I’ve also created an excellent “sop” to add flavor and moisture to it. It adds a great red color too.

I do think I need to inject the sop into the meat prior to cooking to ensure more moisture in the meat.

I was a little disappointed with the bark on the shoulder, although it tasted fine. I forgot to brush it with mustard during the last hour of cooking like I usually do, so the bark didn’t taste very good. Plus, I had it a bit too close to the firebox opening and charred some of the edges. However, I’ve created a nice mustard based sauce that works really well with pulled pork. It turned a bit of a disappointment into a pretty tasty meat!

I also threw on a whole chicken rubbed with my Caribbean seasoning. I utilized my Maverick thermometers for the chicken and the pork, and as a result they came out with perfect consistency and internal temperatures!

To this feast we added fresh cornbread, Farmer Girl’s fantastic baked beans and salads. It was quite a spread! Happy birthday, Brewer!


Monday, May 16, 2005 

Practice Makes Perfect

I'm gearing up for a lot of practice Queing prior to the Harpoon fest. This weekend I did up a small rack of pork ribs from one of our sows, and a 9lb. chicken. Check it out:

I rarely cook ribs, so I have to admit that I'm a little shakey on them. They came out a touch overdone, but tasted great. I also came up with a new BBQ sauce for them which, with a little refinement, will be contest worthy. The chicken should have been pulled out a little earlier, but it was still quite good. I brined it for a few hours which I think kept it from being too dry. I think the color on everything is good.

Next Sunday I'm having the Brewer and his Wife up for an afternoon Que in celebration of his birthday. He's a huge fan of the stuff and, of course, will bring the beer. I've ordered a pork shoulder and a brisket. I think the shoulder will get done on Sunday, along with some chicken thighs.

Man this practice is hard work! :-)




This is my current grill.

As I mentioned below, It came from Home Depot. Apparently, the New Braunfels company got absorbed by CharBroil. I'm not sure if the new version of this grill is as good as mine is, particularly when you consider the measly $150 price tag. If you're wondering why it looks so beat up, it once took a fall out of a pick up truck. It leaks in places it shouldn't, but I've learned to work with it.


Saturday, May 14, 2005 

Preparing for the Competition

I've been doing my best to get prepared for the Harpoon Championship of New England BBQ. I've already made a few equipment and supply purchases.

I just received a pair of Maverick ET-73 "remote smoker" thermometers. These units have two sensors, one for your meat and one for the chamber. But the biggest detail about them is the ability to set a temperature range. In general, smoking is done around 225 degrees. I can set the ET-73 to sound an alarm if the chamber temp gets to low OR too high! Pretty cool. I can't wait to test them out on a chicken and ribs this weekend.

I got the recommendation for this particular thermometer model from the American Barbeque News Forums (note the link to the right). I cannot tell you how beneficial these forums have been. They’re free, so all you need to do is register. On these forums you’ll find a great group of Que’ers from beginner to hardcore pro. I’ve been able to ask a number of questions with regard to competing and have gotten some excellent responses and a lot of good advice. If you’re into cooking Que and want advice – go to the forums.



Wicked Good Charcoal

I live in central Vermont which, as you might imagine, is not exactly the heart of BBQ country! As far as I know, there are no truly excellent or authentic sources of good BBQ in the state except when one of our local fairs is in full swing. This is one of the main reasons I have gotten so into Que.

As you might imagine, I have a hard time finding BBQ supplies as well. I just recently placed an order for lump charcoal from wicked good charcoal which is located in the nearby state of Maine.

I have to tell you that even though I haven’t yet tested their “competition blend” (which is what I ordered), their service is just excellent. I ordered the charcoal from my office and in less than an hour received confirmation from their shipping department that it was ready to be shipped. This in its own right was pleasing, but what really got me was a personal email from the guy [correction: It turns out that "Lee" the rep I was working with is "Lee Ann" - so I should say "gal"! - Thanks to Lee for the correction!] in their shipping department asking me if he had my correct address! I’m in rural VT, and FedEx and other carriers can get confused by our addressing scheme. The guy from Wicked Good Charcoal double checked my address with me within minutes of my confirmation.

Even without testing their product, I have to give these folks five stars for service!


Wednesday, May 11, 2005 

It's official!

It's official! I've registered team Howling Hog BBQ to compete in the Harpoon Championship of New England Barbeque!

This officially sanctioned KCBS competition will mark my first foray in the world of competitive Que. I'm incredibly excited about it. I've organized an great team of talented people to help me out. Although I refrain from putting real names on my blogs out of respect for my friends, these are my teammates by apropriate nickname:

    The Old Bull - my BBQ mentor who cooks the best ribs I've ever had. He's the only one I know who can que like I do. I'll rely on him to help me keep the pits up to temp and the meats cooking slow!

    Farmer Girl - my wife, the master event organizer, farmer and fantastic cook. Farmer girl will be handling our customers (we're vending, too), helping me come up with the meals we'll sell and doing the baked beans.

    Chef J. - a veteran of 30 years of cooking, from line cook to head chef. I'll rely on Chef J most when it comes time to present our products to the judges. His eye for presentation will go a long way toward helping us win!

    The Brewer - A master at brewing beer, the Brewer will be an enthusiastic participant who'll do whatever needs to be done to help us win!

This is a great group of friends and family, here. I look forward to this experience being fun, a learning experience, and a great opportunity to get to know others who are doing the same thing. And we might just win something!


Tuesday, May 10, 2005 

Humble Beginnings (pt. 2)

My interest in BBQ began with a cookbook by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby aptly titled "The Thrill of the Grill". My father introduced me to the book and was good enough to give me a copy. Since then, my favorite place to cook has always been at a grill.

I started grilling on a small Webber grill, which I still own and still use. I dabbled in West Indies spiced chicken, steaks and burgers. But the big meats, such as pork shoulder and brisket, were out of reach simply because I couldn't get the heat far enough away to cook them properly.

I learned about the "indirect" method of cooking from my wife's uncle, the Old Bull. He has been at it longer than I have and can make a smoked prime rib that is to die for. One of the most carnivorous experiences I ever had involved the Old Bull and a rack of pork ribs that we devoured in minutes. It was bliss.

In 2000, when I received my master's degree, my family chipped in and bought me an inexpensive smoker grill from Home Depot. My "Silver Smoker" opened the door to the joy of cooking "low and slow" as the Thrill of the Grill authors put it. Since I got the pit, I've learned how to make some mean pulled pork and a pretty good beef brisket. I've learned more about cooking with wood than I ever thought possible, and I've found some incredible resources on the internet, which I'll pass on to you as I have time.



Humble beginnings (pt. 1)

I should give readers a little background about my passion for ‘Que and cooking in general.

Many of the best moments of my life (with the noted exception of my wedding and the birth of our Son) have centered on food. My father has always been an exceptional cook, who reveled in the creation of large meals for family and friends, and the fun of eating it. Without his influence, and the many good times we had at our family cottage in Maine, I probably would never have become the cook I am.

I was fortunate enough to marry a woman who finds food as much fun as I do, and together we have become a great team in the kitchen. She bakes and is a wizard at making exceptional desserts out of whatever is in the cupboard. She can whip up one hell of a side-dish too! To add to the essential ingredients to our marriage, my wife’s extended family know how to throw a party and are no strangers to the kitchen.

To top off all of these family food influences, I have had the remarkable pleasure of finding friends who know food and drink like nobody else.

The bottom line folks, is that I love food. I love to cook and I love to celebrate food with good friends!



Starting off on the right hoof

I've had a personal blog (mulethoughts.blogspot.com)for a few months now and have really enjoyed the opportunity to post rants about politics, music, sports and anything else that has come into my mind.

But life is not all rants and tirades. Sometimes it is simply barbecuing a nice, fat, pork shoulder to perfection and enjoying it with the best of friends and family.

This blog, named after my recently formed Competition BBQ team, will be a place for me to talk about my experiences in the world of competitive BBQ, food and the pleasures contained therein. I welcome anyone to comment and give advice if you've got any!