Learning to Cook Smoked BBQ At Home

It’s not as difficult as it may seem to learn how to make your own, wood smoked BBQ at home!  Nor is it an expensive technique to learn, although it can become a ‘habit’ and we all know that they can get expensive as we progress with our skills!  In fact, Jim’s alwaysGQ4U! Competition BBQ heard saying that ‘BBQ is easy to learn to do, but takes a lifetime to master’!  So, perhaps all you need to get started is some basic information about equipment and meat selection and the process itself!  Perhaps you’re already equipped to cook indirect using the low and slow technique, but you need to dial in your skills a bit?  What about cooking the ‘whole hog’…a popular concept on the BBQ TV shows and not too tough to do at home with a small hog!

No matter your interest, as the Catering season begins to wind down, the BBQ Classes begin to crank up here at GreatQ4U!  We’ve already scheduled September dates for our ‘BBQ101‘ and ‘BBQ 201’ as well as our ‘Whole Hog’ and ‘BBQ Business’ classes, they can be found on our website: www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html where by choosing the ‘Pay Now’ option under each class, you can sign up and save your spot as they are limited attendance events!  If those dates don’t work for you, we should have October dates up by the end of cropped-butts.jpgthis week!  In addition to the ‘Master Class’ series of programs, we will also be scheduling ‘Wednesday Night Workshops’ where in 3 hours, we will cover basic BBQ Recipes; preparation, cooking and best of all tasting!  So…stay tuned to the Website or our FaceBook page for more details!

Why learn to BBQ in the Fall?  Well, you can browse back through years of posts here on the Blog to read Jim’s thoughts on BBQ in the cooler months and how it’s even BETTER!  We believe strongly that BBQ is not just for the Summer months and that the cooler cropped-alabama-ribs.jpgtemps of the Fall and Winter lend themselves to some AWESOME product!  SO…check out the classes and save your spot soon, we would LOVE to have you join us at the shop in Mechanicsburg, PA!  We’ve structured the BBQ101 and 201 classes so that you can take a whole weekend and learn all four types of meat cooked in Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned competitions!  Again, the classes are available to sign up for on the site: www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

For more information, feel free to e-mail Jim: Jim@GreatQ4U.com – Thanks for reading along and we hope you make this an AWESOME week!

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Boy’s Night Out Wednesdays at GQ4U! – Check It!

OK, we know that we haven’t posted in a LONG TIME and rather than list a whole lot of excuses…we think we should pick right up with what we’ve got going on to benefit our customers in and around Central PA!  Most notably, our large selection of in-stock Primo Ceramic Grill/Smokers and Myron Mixon Pitmaster Q3 Pellet Smokers!

What better way to show off the benefits of the products that we sell than to fire them up, have a few friends over and cook up some tasty treats while learning about all MM Q3things BBQ!  Every session, we’ll pick a topic (Rubs & Sauces, Airflow, Smoker Selection, Meat Selection and Prep…etc.) and cover it over a couple of hours in a laid back setting all while we’ve got goodies smokin’ on the products we sell!

It’s a GREAT way to get away for a night and learn some Primo OVAL XL Grilluseful tips surrounded by a group of like minded ‘BBQ Guys’ in an informal, yet informative environment!  OK…SOLD!  When do we start?  Good Question!  Looks like the FIRST ‘Boys Night Out’ BBQ Jam Session will be on Wednesday May 7th!  Still working on firming up a few details, but you heard it HERE first!  Participation will be FREE and limited to the first 12 RSVP’s!

Much more to come as BBQ ‘Season’ progresses and our adventures continue! O’h….and BEFORE y’all start typing THOSE e-mails….we WILL be doing ‘Girl’s Night Out’ as well…probably later this summer! 😀

jak

BBQ Bravado

By, Jim Knepper

There’s NO shortage of it out there these days and it has been amplified by media attention to our art form and it’s most visible purveyors…competitors.  No doubt that in Meat Rakeorder to take a long, laborious task and make it palatable to TV audiences, there has to be drama, conflict and even occasionally resolution, afterall that’s how TV goes.  It’s also present in the Competition Circuit in no short supply…as it should be.  Afterall, if you’re going to compete, you ought to be doing it to win, hence the purpose of competition.  It’s also increasingly become present among folks who cook BBQ as a business either full or part time and sometimes it’s backed up by the products, others it isn’t.

I am writing this post not to lecture anyone on how to behave as they pursue their love of creating great BBQ nor am I taking a position of me being any better than anyone else, I am instead examining this ‘bravado’ from the perspective of a guy who thinks that the BEST thing about BBQ (next to eating it) are the people who produce it!  Reason for this observation is that recently I’ve connected with some great folks on all ends of the BBQ spectrum via our various social media outlets and have been reminded again just how good BBQ people are in general.  From farmers to butchers and other Pitmasters, large production operations and small outlets of various packaged BBQ products, even BBQ Restaurant and Catering owners who are committed as can be to their art form.

If you’ve never been to a BBQ Competition and you are a fan of the product, I would suggest that you take some time this year and go to one!  You can find one near you on Sam's Tour Richmond 2the Kansas City BBQ Society’s website (www.kcbs.us) and when you go there are a few things you should know.  First of all, there are VERY FEW competitions that will allow the teams to provide you with ‘samples’, primarily because of Health Codes and liability, so you can ask, but don’t be surprised when a team can’t let you taste their goods.  Also, you should know that Friday evening and early Saturday morning are the best times to interact with the teams.  By mid morning on Saturday, things are getting busy and Pitmasters and crew are finishing up ‘turn in boxes’ so they have a pretty focused effort underway.  I think that you’ll find that the folks who compete are in general, a great group of people that are more than willing to answer questions and provide tips.

Another great byproduct of the increasing popularity of BBQ is the amount of folks who are getting ‘into’ the BBQ Business.  From full and quick service restaurants to roadside Roll TideBBQ ‘shacks’ there are LOTS of outlets for authentic smoked BBQ products these days and you should support as many of them as you can if you’re a true fan.  Sure, there will be those you like more than others and you’ll most likely even have a favorite, but every Pitmaster’s got their own twist and signature taste and BBQ isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ proposition.  There are many ways to get to that finished product and the more you cook the better you get.  In my humble opinion there’s too much ‘mine is better than so and so’s’ in our market place, worse there’s never really any need for openly trashing a place that you don’t like as a way of supporting the place (or places) that you do like…it doesn’t really serve any purpose and I think subverts the history of BBQ which is a very communal art.

Lastly (because no one wants to spend their whole Monday morning reading my thoughts) I would say that if you’ve got a local butcher or a farm in your area that pays Embroidered GQ4U Logoclose attention to how they raise their animals or even raises ‘heritage’ breeds of proteins, you should do all that you can to support them.  It’s not only helping the BBQ community to thrive by increasing the availability of product, it’s healthier!  I read somewhere recently that if you buy pre-packaged hamburger meat in a super-store, you could be getting meat from >150 cows in every burger!  You won’t find that at your local butcher or local farmer’s market and it keeps the money you spend in your community.

So, while there is NO shortage of bravado out there in the BBQ world about how mine is better than so-and-so’s or you don’t know what you’re doing if you don’t use MY techniques, there are far more folks in the BBQ community that are willing to commit to their art and their customers.  They talk mostly about their own product and Tuffy and Jimpassionately about where their proteins come from and how they prep and cook them, not about their competitors.  We support each other and we do far better together than we do individually it’s not such a crazy concept.  It’s good to be proud of your BBQ and if there’s a spot you don’t like, don’t go back.  As for the competition circuit, it’s ultimately up to six judges who’ve spent a lot of time learning how to judge and tasting all kinds of different BBQ.  Not everyone wins every time because the palates of the judges changes from competition to competition and table to table and that’s a good thing!

Don’t let the BBQ Bravado throw you off, there are a TON of good people in BBQ and I would say that if you’re interested in consuming, cooking or competing…go out and get some, you’ll find a bunch of great people and a growing number of them making great product!  Of course, I’m always available to ‘talk BBQ’ and we do teach classes, do catering and more!  Visit us at www.GreatQ4U.com or give us a call at 717-254-1937 to learn more about GreatQ4U! – Thanks for reading along and have a GREAT Monday!

What’s the BEST Smoker for Me?

By, Jim Knepper

I get asked this a LOT and while I do have a ‘standard’ response…it would be reckless for me to not point out that our new retail shop sells Primo Ceramic Grill/Smokers Primo Kamodo Grill(which I believe to be the most versatile outdoor cooking ‘system’ available) and will soon be stocking Pit Barrel Smokers (<$300 with all you need to start cooking)!  That said, this is again somewhat of a ‘trap’ question because every BBQ person’s got their own opinions and mine is just one in a cacophony of them.

So, what is the best smoker for you?  One that you USE!  Doesn’t matter what your budget or whether you use wood, charcoal or pellets, how fancy or ‘high tech’ it is or if you made it out of an old 55 gallon drum, if you use it and enjoy doing so, it’s the best smoker for you.  BBQ is a primal concept and as long as you’ve got a fire and the ability to regulate the temperature in the chamber, you’re set!

That said, there are of course a number of factors that make it easier or harder to PBCachieve a consistent temperature in the cooking chamber such as: insulation, air flow (very important), convection and knowledge of the ‘zones’ in your particular smoker.  Much of this can be accomplished with practice and/or some easy to do home modifications.  Less expensive or home made smokers may require a bit more attention, but they can still get the job done!

Alas, it seems a bit of a cop out on a Friday, but just like anything else that you own, the best is the one that you use the most and the more you use your smoker, the better you’ll get.  Smoking adds a whole new dimension to the iGrill 1flavor profiles of just about any food and it’s a worthy endeavor for just about any foodie or home chef.  If you need online resources, there are a LOT of them.  My perennial suggestions are to begin with the Kansas City BBQ Society (www.KCBS.us) and the National BBQ Association (www.nbbqa.org) and then move onto your local or regional BBQ organization…here in PA we are fortunate to have the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association (www.mabbqa.com) and there are TONS of online forums like the BBQ Brethren, a great group of helpful and committed enthusiasts (www.bbq-brethren.com) and the BBQ Backyard (www.bbqbackyard.com) just to name a few.  You’ll find that folks are for the most part, welcoming and more than willing to share information and answer questions!

Of course, if you ever need help or advice, we are online at www.GreatQ4U.com and only a phone call (717-254-1937) or E-Mail: Jim@GreatQ4U.com away! – Smoke on and have a GREAT weekend! 🙂 – jak

Hey, Is it still cold out there?

By, Jim Knepper

OK, so I don’t typically begin posts with a rhetorical question, but thought it appropriate today as there are quite a few of us that have simply had it with this cold snap.  That Groundhog had better be wearing shades this year, ’cause if he sees his shadow, he’ll need a security detail to get back into that hole!

Not a long post this morning, much going on despite the cold!  Still working on our Spring and Summer schedules and doing our best to keep ‘Station Q’ warm and ready Station Qfor all the work that has yet to be done on the ‘BBQ Battlewagons’ for the Spring/Summer competitions and Fall Tailgates.  Should have our ‘Tasting Room’ put together by the end of the month so we can give customers a sense of not only how delicious our food is, but how our presentation and service will look at their events!

Also, still a few spots left in the April 5th Whole Hog class Whole Hog Roasts ROCK!at our shop in Mechanicsburg, PA.  We are limiting class size to 15 people and will be cooking 3 hogs: One on ‘the smoke’, another in La Caja China using top down indirect heat and the third will be used to demonstrate preparation techniques, anatomy and basic butchery of the whole hog!  Should be a GREAT class and well worth the $275 investment…you will leave with FAR MORE than knowledge!  You can sign up/pay at our website: http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

We’d LOVE to cater your Spring or Summer event with our ‘conventional’ catering OR with an Antique Fire Truck that’s set up to ‘Respond’ to your party needs and quench Primo All-In-One Kamodothe hunger of even the hungriest guests!  Just give us a call soon to save a spot on the calendar and we will be happy to get you a written estimate!  We’ve also got Pre-Season pricing on ALL in-stock Primo grill/smokers so you can get a great deal on a ceramic Grill that will last a lifetime and is 100% ‘Made in the USA’!

Know someone looking to cater an event, or looking for a GREAT Grill/Smoker?  Refer a friend and we’ll hook you up too! – Give us a call at – 717-254-1937 or e-mail me: Jim@GreatQ4U.com for more info! – STAY WARM! 🙂 jak

Monday = PROGRESS! Catering and Tailgating Schedules Filling Up!

By, Jim Knepper

So, with the addition of our Primo Grill/Smoker and BBQ Accessory retail Shop it’s been a busy ‘off season’ for us at GreatQ4U! and I am not complaining!  As I’ve typed on this Dimples Shrimplespage before, we have a LOT going on in addition to the retail shop!  We’ve got our Spring and Summer Catering schedules filling up fast and have been diligently working on new menu, buffet, display and service options.  We are cleaning and re-stocking and getting ready for the best year ever.  We have been working hard on getting the ‘BBQ Battlewagons’ (our two Antique Firetrucks) ready to roll for parties and BBQ Sauce sales at area Flea Markets in the Spring….you get the point!

On top of all that stuff, we have a jam packed schedule of BBQ Classes coming up in OBR Harrisburg 1013the ‘pre-season’ months that are really designed around the needs of our customers…home cooking!  We may add a few Competition oriented classes in the Spring and bring in some instructors who KNOW how to do Competition Que even better than us, but our true focus is on teaching folks how to get the most out of the smokers they have at home or buy from us!  Our Basic and Advanced BBQ Classes are full until April and those classes are beginning to fill up fast.  We have a Whole Hog class on April 5th that will be a BLAST and limited to 15 folks…again with an emphasis on the home BBQ enthusiast!  All of them can be found and registered for on our website: http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

I am reiterating my earlier post for folks that may have already received an Estimate from us for a 2014 Event or have talked with us about catering their upcoming events; BOOK SOON!  We do begin to fill our schedules pretty fast this time of the year and weDSC_0128 cannot guarantee our availability without a signed Contract and Deposit!  Inevitably every year during the months ahead, I have awkward conversations with folks who have Estimates in hand and haven’t yet booked only to find out that we are no longer available on their dates…I don’t like having those conversations, but we will never compromise quality for quantity!

Speaking of quality, we are continuing to source as many of our ingredients as possible from local sources and can work with customers to source ALL of the products for your GQ4U!events locally if you choose to do so, but with the crazy fluctuations in pricing and the production of some incredible product in other areas, we are also sourcing from the best suppliers in other areas as well.  Yet another reason to book soon is that the cost of Beef and Pork specifically are going to skyrocket this year as well as the lingering drought in California’s impact on produce prices…this WILL lead to price increases!  We will absorb as much as we can, but in order to stay in business and committed to quality…I just know that we’ll have to do it and maybe more than once!  When you do Book with us, we lock in your pricing and will honor our agreed upon pricing no matter the increases!

What about the ‘BBQ Battlewagons’?  Well, we will be rolling out to several Regional BBQ Competitions with them this season, probably from Mid-Summer into early Fall and I’ll let you know when we choose the dates and locations.  We are also going to be Station QFULLY set for Fall Tailgating parties and those spots will book up FAST!  You can reserve your ‘Battlewagon’ for games in Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore or DC and let us provide an unforgettable experience with AWESOME food and fun!  Again…I’d suggest booking early as we’ve only got two trucks to go around and those dates will fill up fast!

SO…get out there and make this a great week!  If you’d like more info about ANY of the products or services that GreatQ4U!’s got to offer, please don’t hesitate to call or E-Mail me: 717-254-1937 Ext. 1 or Jim@GreatQ4U.com

Freaking Cold BBQ Weather!

By, Jim Knepper

So, every year on the Blog, I typically post at least a few rants about the ‘benefits’ of cooking in cold weather.  BUT…this is no typical cold, it’s incredibly cold just about everywhere on the East Coast and I would submit that in addition to the ‘traditional’ reasons I think BBQ turns out better in this type of weather, this kind of cold provides a few ‘special considerations’.

With wind chills dipping well into the sub-zero range, I would say that it’s safe to assume that no matter what kind of smoker you’re using and whether it’s internally insulated or Q Photosnot, it wouldn’t hurt to toss a blanket over it during your cook.  NOW…don’t put a combustible or cheap blanket over it, or you risk fire and worse, a melted blanket all over your smoker!  Welding blankets work well and can be found at just about any local welding shop.

Secondly, it’s great weather to use a wireless thermometer such as the iGrill to save iGrill 1you not only a trip outside, but opening the smoke chamber.  Some folks estimate that in normal cooking weather, you lose up to 25% of your heat every time that you open the chamber and then you’ve got a period of hotter fire to compensate, which done frequently enough can lead to tough meat.  By using a wireless thermometer, you can drastically decrease the number of times necessary to open the cooking chamber.

Yet another consideration is the effects that the Weather has on your physiology!  Even the best of outdoorsmen knows that at minus 15°F it doesn’t take long to develop frostbite or sustain serious environmental injury.  So, plan in advance every ‘interaction’ that you’ll have with whatever you’re cooking and even go through a ‘practice’ run before you brave the temps to hit the smoker.  This way you’re out, you do what you’ve got to do and you’re back in as quickly as possible.

Finally, know your gear and it’s limitations!  No matter what kind of smoker you use, there will be ‘special considerations’ that temps like this will cause.  For example…if Primo All-In-One Kamodoyou’re thinking about firing up a ceramic grill/smoker…think twice about the amount of heat you use.  It IS possible to crack creamics from extreme changes in heat levels and this should be covered in the documentation you got when you bought your smoker.

SO…just a couple of considerations for cooking BBQ in the cold…not a cautionary tale of why you should NOT get out there and do some ‘Que’! – Stay warm and smokin’ my friends!