Thursday, November 29, 2007 

What a barbecue obsessed man wants for Christmas

I've always been a guy who loves giving and getting gifts for Christmas. My mother and I were pretty poor when I was a young kid, but she always made sure there was good stuff under the tree for her future barbecuer.

This year my focus is on tools that will make me barbecue better, or at least more comfortable. Here's what's on my list...

Sleeping bags - after two events in a row that were unseasonably cold, Farmer Girl and I decided that it was time for our family to get new sleeping bags. I picture us all stuffed in our sacks with hot drinks as we unwrap the rest of our gifts.

Headlamps - I actually have one already, that I stole from Farmer Girl's uncle with his permission, but I figured that all of us needed them.

BBQ Guru DigiQ II - This is the big one for me. If I get this, everything else will be gravy. Shotgun Fred and his crew at have released a new power draft system. For those of you who don't know, I use one of their older models (the BBQ Guru) to regulate the airflow into my pit. It's a tool like this that allows me to step away from my smoker for up to four hours at a time without worrying if the temp is going to go awry. When we were at Harpoon, Shotgun Fred was cooking two booths down from us. In the middle of the night, I wandered over to his pit and talked about the new model with him. As you can imagine, the white bearded salesman had me hooked after about two seconds. The new unit is smaller and more durable, plus it offers quite a number of features that make it a much improved unit. I want it. Do you hear me Farmer Girl? I want it!

Thermapen - Too many times I've found myself wondering if my multitude of temperature probes were accurate. I get one reading on my Mavericks and a different one on my guru when they're stuck in the same piece of meat. My analog instant-read thermometers are slow, which forces me to leave the pit door open too long. The Thermapen will rescue me from those questions. Although it ain't cheap ($90+), it's hands down the best instant read you can get. It only needs an eighth of an inch penetration to work. It reads a temp in lest than three seconds.

Tent - We were very lucky to have the Mamer and Old Bull's 10X20 tent to use this season. It made us look somewhat professional, and it surely kept us dryer than we'd been the year before. Plus, the larger tent was better able to withstand strong winds. So, when the father of this Mule suggested that he might get some gift certificates to Northern Tool, I told him to go for it. Hopefully, I'll be able to make up the difference and we'll have our own 10X20 to use with Mamer and OB's.

Those are the big things, of course. The rest of the list includes such needs as a new axe, a battery tester and a new weber one-touch gold.

Hopefully Santa will get me a couple of these things. And hopefully Santa will also sling me a little cash to help fill in the gaps. You know Santa loves barbecue. Look at that belly!

Have a happy holiday.




That's the question. Where have I been? The season has ended, have I ceased all barbecue? Have I left the building like Elvis on a road trip?

Nope. Howling Hog Barbecue is still here. Until the end of September, we were balls-to-the-wall busy. During August and September, we cooked for three parties and vended professionally at The Animal-Powered Field Days. But, it's nearly December and the season is long over now.

Which means that it's time for me to go into heavy practice mode. And that's what I've been doing. At this point I've focused all of my energies on ribs. As our friends and supporters know, we've had a bear of a time figuring out what the heck KCBS judges are looking for with regard to pork ribs. We've tried everything we could. We've marinated them. We've rubbed them. We've wrapped them in foil. We've done everything except sacrifice a sow under the light of the moon while dancing naked around a fire (really, no pigs were harmed during that naked dancing incident!).

So, with the purchase of a dozen racks of ribs, I have worked my tail off to figure out what makes them tick. I'm now down to two racks left, and by golly, I believe I've got it figured out. My ribs are now consistently getting rave reviews. They have the right spice and the right sauce and they're coming out the same each time I cook them (this is REALLY important when you compete). I'm pretty sure that our scores on ribs will rise dramatically next season.

The only downside to all of this work with ribs is that I've neglected my favorite meats - the big ones! I haven't cooked a pork shoulder or a brisket since September. Good thing Christmas is coming. I just placed an order for six pork shoulders and eight briskets. The weekend before Christmas, I'll be cooking like a madman as I try and prepare loads of freshly cooked barbecue to gift to my friends and family over the holiday.

Boy am I looking forward to it.