Cooking on a Wood Fire at Home.

By, Jim Knepper

While it may sound daunting or a bit difficult to do, cooking on a wood fire at your home is probably easier than you think!  In fact, there have never been more options than there are today for you to easily and with minimal effort, enjoy that same wood fired taste that’s so popular with restaurants in your own kitchen!  Well…you wouldn’t want to start a wood fire in your kitchen (unless you’re lucky enough to have it properly equipped)…so here are some pointers on how to get ‘er done!

Without question the easiest way to accomplish this is to purchase a Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker which are available from a variety of manufacturers in all kinds of shapes MM Q3and sizes!  Wood pellet grills use 100% (food grade) wood pellets with no glue or binders, just pressure to shape them.  They are REAL WOOD and accordingly come in many varieties; Oak, Hickory, Apple, Mesquite, Cherry, Alder..you get the point!  You can even find them with ‘flavors’ added such as Garlic or Onion, however I prefer to control the spices I use by application of rubs, mops and sauces.  As the actual logs would burn, so do the pellets…in other words, Oak burns hot and fast, ‘fruit woods’ not-so-much, etc.  Wood pellet Grills are quite versatile and the air blowing into the fire pot that heats the stove creates a natural convection and even heating.  You can use them to Grill, Smoke or Bake and the results will surprise you!  A whole new dimension of flavor to dishes that you are used to coming off a gas grill for sure!

Another common method of cooking with wood is by using charcoal.  Not Briquettes so Primo OVAL XL Grillmuch, but more commonly ‘Lump Charcoal’ which is actual wood and not highly processed.  There are MANY ways to cook with charcoal from the good old Weber Kettle to the modern Ceramic Grill/Smokers that are commonly found in Green and Black colors.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  I would start by suggesting that when using lump charcoal, DO NOT use lighter fluid or for that matter, ANY form of ‘accelerant’ unless that’s all you wish to taste on your food!  This is especially important when using ceramics into which any type of liquid accelerant will soak leaving you with a lifetime of ugly flavor.  There are quite a variety of charcoal lighting tools available today from the common ‘chimney starter’ and ‘Hot Rod’ to the more recent hot air lighting devices.  Cooking on charcoal requires some effort, but you are rewarded with a flavor that is unmistakably good!  Like the wood pellet cookers, the Ceramic Charcoal units are well insulated and retain moisture quite well, so they can Grill, Smoke and Bake quite well!

If you’re looking to drop some BIG BUCKS and go with whole logs and real wood coals, there are a growing number of Freestanding Wood Grill manufacturers out there willing Grillworks42to take your money!  It is the ultimate way to cook over an actual wood fire and typically has a suspended grill with a crank wheel to move the grill up and down so that you can control the heat and cooking process.  This is the real deal and doesn’t deviate very much from the techniques used to cook over a camp fire.  Although, the grills tend to be quite expensive and they do take some time to build up a solid base of ‘hot coals’ to cook on, so they may not be the most convenient!  They are indeed crowd pleasers though both in appearance and taste!

SO…conveniently, if you are looking to learn more about Wood Fired Cooking at home, we are conducting a FREE workshop at our shop in Mechanicsburg next Wednesday night (July 16th) from 7pm until 10pm.  We will review products with demo models for yo to see.  We will also prepare and get to taste some wood fired goodies!  You just bring yourself and a chair (and a beverage if you’d like) and we’ll do the rest…interacting with you and teaching you just how easy it is to cook over a wood fire.  You can join the event on our FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/jaktzr#!/events/1509400672609054/) or E-Mail: Jim@GreatQ4U.com to reserve your spot!  The workshop is no cost to you, but limited to 12 people with 4 alternates…so first come, first served!  We also have scheduled some BBQ Classes for August and September on our website: http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html if you’d like to go a bit further with your BBQ techniques!

So, either way…think about a wood fired grill at home and don’t hesitate to reach out f we can help!  We’ve got a lot of Primo Ceramic and Myron Mixon Wood Pellet Grills in stock and are always willing to help!

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

GreatQ4U! – Central PA’s one Stop BBQ Shop!

As we begin our TENTH year of operations and look toward longer and hopefully much OBR Harrisburg 1013warmer days ahead, we are proud to say that after a decade of being a ‘one trick’ pony, we have evolved!  Indeed we still specialize in wood-smoked BBQ Catering and have begun the process of getting the ‘BBQ Battlewagon’ Fire Trucks set up and ready to roll for your Spring and Summer Parties and your Fall Tailgating festivities, but there is obviously more to us than just BBQ now!

As the world of BBQ hits mainstream TV and the number of folks that are getting into the BBQ Restaurant and Catering business evolves, we welcome the new additions to our passion and as I have typed here many times before, we encourage you to experience as many different places as you can!  We all have our own unique twists on how we prepare, season, smoke and serve our BBQ products.  We are proud to say that we’ve been doing BBQ Catering for a decade and that our BBQ has won many awards at Kansas City BBQ Society and other events!  I am proud as a Pitmaster and PBCChef to say that I’ve won national awards for my flavors and creativity, not to mention a commitment to sourcing locally from those who are the best at what they do.  BUT, I also know that we are only as good as our last service and we will never forget that!  Our menu continues to grow and our catering options extend beyond ‘traditional’ BBQ now to accommodate a wider range of tastes, but our core commitment to preparing every meal ‘to order’ and specifically for each event will never change!

Additionally, even as the number of BBQ ‘outlets’ in Central PA continues to grow, there Primo OVAL XL Grillremains a gaping hole for the home chef that is looking to learn how to cook BBQ on their own.  You can watch TV and resort to the internet to learn a LOT about how to ‘do Que’ but there’s no replacement for Experience and we have put ours to work by expanding into Retail sales of Primo Grills/Smokers, Myron Mixon Pellet Grills and Smokers and the affordable and versatile Pit Barrel Cooker along with a whole host of accessories!  We are even MM Q3offering an ongoing BBQ Class series that we will do int he Spring and Fall in the ‘off peak’ months of our Catering schedule to teach folks how to do everything from making your own signature spice blends and sauces to cooking whole hogs and even getting into the BBQ business!

As all of this expansion of services goes on, our focus will remain on service and quality and we want everyone to know that if you’re looking for a BBQ Smoker or Grill or the knowledge to know how to use them, we are indeed your ONE-STOP-BBQ-SHOP!  You can find out more about us online at: www.GreatQ4U.com or our Grills and Smokers at www.BuyAPrimo.com or feel free to call 717-254-1937 or stop by and see us during our off-season weekend hours which are always posted on our FaceBook Page!  We’re on Twitter too! – SO…when you think BBQ in Central PA, think about GreatQ4U! and we’ll do our best to help you out!

Get to Know Your Sources!

By, Jim Knepper

One of the keys to winning in BBQ Competitions and successfully growing your BBQ Business is Consistency!  Consistent service, consistently nice preparations and most importantly, consistently great product!  If you’re purchasing based solely on food costs from large ‘contract’ suppliers or in Wholesale Clubs, you may be finding the quality of your end product to be somewhat inconsistent and that has a LOT to do with the fact that they aggregate from a large number of suppliers that can be quite geographically diverse, not to mention their ‘husbandry’ techniques!

I recently read an article that outlined the growing difficulties for Chef’s who source product locally because of the many logistical and supply ‘issues’ in doing so, but in the end if you know who raises your proteins and produce and you’ve seen it ‘on the hoof’ or in the field, it’s going to help to make you a better producer and without question you’ll have a more consistent end product.  This is not a new concept to those of us that have been in the BBQ business for any length of time, because ‘back in the day’ the cuts that we use for smoking today, weren’t readily available in mega-marts or through contract suppliers!  (Talk about food costs increasing…I remember Pork Shoulder UNDER $1/lb!)

As the ‘Farm-to-Table’ movement continues and the emphasis on connecting the ‘big’ chefs with local suppliers capable of providing a consistent supply and quality of product grows, so do the opportunities for anyone interested in providing great BBQ meals!  No matter whether you’re cooking for your family and friends, or if you are operating a commercial cookery…more farmers farming locally is a good thing!  Even in the larger urban areas, there is a LOT of momentum for Urban farming and a growing farming community within a short drive.

SO…get to know a Butcher.  If you don’t have one VERY close by, make it a ‘destination’ and a habit to visit on a regular basis.  As you buy products from them over a period of time, you will develop a relationship and rapport that will lead to more consistent results and a better end product.  Same goes for produce!  There’s a resurgence in the Farmer’s Market today and even in the BIG cities, you’ll find folks who grow awesome and sometimes not oft seen produce and then bring it to a market to sell until it’s gone.  Where to find these ‘sources’?  A brief search of ‘the Google’ will provide a number of online resources!

Enjoy more consistent results and a much better end result by keeping it as local as you can and get to know where everything you cook comes from! – Enjoy your week! – 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

Want to Learn How to Do ‘Real Deal’ BBQ?

Well then, we can hook you up!  We’ve still got space in our early Spring and Summer BBQ Classes that will be taught at our shop in Mechanicsburg, PA and we would LOVE to have you!  After a somewhat rocky start with the cancellation of our January classes due to the first of several ‘Snowpocalypses’ and a sub zero cold snap that would have made teaching impractical if not unworthy of the investment, we have got things in gear now!

We are offering courses that range from Basic to Advanced, Whole Hog and even how to start and successfully operate your own BBQ Business either as a Part-Time or Full-Time venture.  Our cooking classes will not focus on how to cook ‘Competition BBQ’ although Chef is a 15+ year member of the Kansas City BBQ Society and a Certified BBQ Judge.  Our reason is that we sell Primo Grills and Smokers which are geared to the home cook AND there are far more folks who cook BBQ at home than to compete.  BUT…if you’re interested in learning how to compete on the ‘BBQ Circuit’, we’ve got LOTS of friends across the country that ARE teaching Competition classes and we can hook you up, just let us know when and where you’re available and we’ll look for a class that meets your needs.

Our Basic BBQ Class will cover everything that the home cook needs to know about cooking BBQ ‘Low & Slow’ over wood or coal.  What cuts to use, how to prepare them, equipment needs and considerations, making spice rubs and sauces and more.  Advanced BBQ will build on those blocks and further explore anatomy, butchery, preparation (including injections and cures), exploration of various time and temperature control devices and different types of smokers and more.  Whole Hog will cover how to source, prepare, season, cook and serve the whole hog at home.  We will cook three hogs total, two by different methods: Indirect smoking and Indirect, Top down roasting in an insulated cooking chamber.  The third hog will be butchered and students will have a chance to see and understand the anatomy and techniques to break down a hog then how to cook each component.

If you’re interested in starting a BBQ Business and can’t make it to the class, we can come to you as full service Hospitality Consultants.  If you’ve already got a business and need help with anything from food costs and profit margins to web site design and development or SEO…we can help you with that too!  We approach every consulting customer as an individual and don’t use any ‘cookie cutter’ solutions!  We listen carefully, watch operation and administration and offer objective advice that will help to improve your operation.

SO…for more info about our BBQ classes, visit our web page at: www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html or if you’d like more info about our Hospitality Consulting visit: http://www.greatq4u.com/Hospitality_Consulting.html OR if you’d just like to talk “Q”…you can call us: 717-254-1937 or E-Mail me: Jim@GreatQ4U.com