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!

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!

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!

Friggin’ Frozen Fingers Fog…

…I couldn’t think of a word for ‘brain’ or ‘mind’ that began with “F”…so I deployed the old dot, dot, dot trick!  Probably yet another thing that they don’t teach in Journalism school or some form of poor Blog etiquette, but that’s why I cook BBQ for a living and don’t write for the New Yorker!

So, with frozen fingers in mind and work to do before the next big storm gets here, PBCbrevity will be the order of the day.  Just wanted to let folks know some of the plans we’ve got coming up for the warmer weather at ‘Station Q’ in Mechanicsburg, PA.  In addition to the awesome deals that we have on Primo Grills/Smokers right now…we are PROUD to announce that we will be adding the affordable, versatile Pit Barrel Cookers (pitbarrelcooker.com) to our Retail Shop SOON!  In keeping with our commitment to ‘Made in the USA’, this cooker is not only All American, it’s a Veteran Owned Company!  Priced under $300 and well built from the ground up, these awesome Primo OVAL XL Grillgrill/smokers can do a LOT!  Look for them in March or pre-order yours today!  We’ve got the absolute lowest prices of the year on our In-Stock Primo Ceramic Grill/Smokers and with a wide selection at the shop ready for immediate delivery, we can hook you up today!  We’re available to show off the Primo’s by Appointment at your convenience, just give us a call at 717-254-1937 or visit us online: www.BuyAPrimo.com!

As the Spring thaw approaches, we’ve got openings in our April BBQ Classes and still a few spots left in our Whole Hog Class on April 5th!  Focused on the ‘home cook’ we will Suckling Hogdemonstrate two different cooking methods while covering all the bases about whole hog cooking.  From sourcing, prepping, anatomy, seasoning and serving…you’ll get TONS of knowledge and a full belly at this class.  All for $275 per person…register on the website (http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html) or call us to save your spot.

Don’t have the time or cash to commit to a class just now? No Problem!  We will be offering our ‘Boys Night Out’ on Wednesdays in the Spring and Summer months!  Every Station Qweek we will fire up a Primo and cook some tasty treats, have some comfortable seating available and cover one specific topic that relates to BBQ in some way, shape or form.  BYOB and prepare to get some knowledge and great food for free all while seeing the AWESOME Primo Grills in action!  From basic butchering and knife skills to making Rubs, Mops and Sauces and more, we’ll spend a few hours of cooking, conversing and learning…all for FREE! – We will limit the attendance to 15 folks and require Pre-Registration, but other than that it will be a great time for all!

Speaking of Primo Ceramic Grill/Smokers…we will also be offering folks who purchase their Primo from us the chance to host ‘Primo Parties’!  What’s that?  It’s a chance for you to invite up to 10 friends over to your place to show off your new Primo and it’s incredible versatility and capability while letting us bring the food and help however much you’d like with the cooking!  If any of your party guests buys a Primo from us, you get a $50 GQ4U! Gift Card for every one sold!

SEE…the friggin’ snow hasn’t frozen our brains…yet!  Catering schedule is filling up fast and I’ve already had to break the bad news to several potential customers…don’t like it, but we’re not a big resort…we are a small, local business and plan on keeping it that way!  SO…if you have an event this year and you’d like GreatQ4U! to cater it…BOOK SOON to save your spot!

Thanks for reading along and stay warm! – 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

Dimples BBQ Sauce – PRODUCT REVIEW

By, Jim Knepper

So…if you’re a customer of ours or a regular reader of the Blog, you’ll no doubt know my thoughts on BBQ Sauce in general (including our own), but in the event that you don’t know…I typically have to turn my head or leave the service line when people begin to smother our Pulled Pork with thick, sweet sauces simply because I personally believe that the essence of the smoke, combined with the spices and crunch of the bark that we work so hard to achieve is what our Pulled Pork is all about!   That said, I am definitely not Anti-BBQ sauce…we make our own of course, but it’s a twist on an Eastern North Carolina Vinegar base and it’s very thin, using dark cider vinegar that is produced locally…when combined with our slaw and pulled pork on a crusty bun, it blends perfectly together!

OK, with that disclaimer aside, I have always loved the name ‘Dimples’ and it still makes me smile every time I say it. (An important part of the BBQ experience in my opinion) So, I was flattered when the fine folks (specifically Richard) at Dimples asked me to review their sauce.  I had read many previous reviews of this North Carolinian product and all were stellar so the chance to get my finger in a bottle, er’ I mean to use some in a few different culinary applications, was more than welcomed.

When I got the sauce, I immediately unpacked it and noticed first and foremost the clean, simple ‘Dimple’ label…nice!  Not pretentious, not a lot of flash, letting the sauce be the ‘star’ of the bottle.  I think this speaks a lot about the confidence of the producer and frankly looks much better.  You be the judge…(while you’re looking, note that the bottle in the front was also opened on it’s way from the box to the block…more on that later) 😉

Dimples

That first dip with my finger let me know that there would be nearly infinite possibilities for this sauce and my mind began to race with menu ideas and applications.  It was thick, but not crazy thick, it was sweet, but not too sweet, it had an obvious tomato base that I got right off the bat to be ketchup (like our own) and there was a smokey finish that wasn’t overpowering.  Overall, first impression was that it was a well balanced sauce that would without question, satisfy the taste buds of the vast majority of our customers…saving them those thick, ‘store bought’ mega-brands!

My first use of the sauce was on Chicken thighs that we grilled up (on our GrillGrates) with a bit of rub during the initial cook and then a liberal application of Dimples during Dimples Thighsthe last few minutes on the heat so as not to burn the sauce.  It came out spectacular…a bit sweet for my personal taste, but just right for my wife who’s got a more sensible palate and one that I trust when it comes to evaluating such things!  Not only did the thighs look good, they tasted even better and the sauce definitely did not overpower the rub or char from the grill.

Dimples ShrimplesSecond night with my Dimples…I couldn’t resist the burning desire to put it on some Shrimples!  I know, I know…I said it and I love saying it; Shrimples with Dimples!  Once again, we prepped with some rub (including a touch of Old Bay) and cooked over hickory at high heat with the Dimples application during the final turn and just as they came off the grill.  This preparation was absolutely incredible and I’m not just sayin’ that…the Shrimp, Rub, Dimples combo was spectacular and not only looked awesome, it tasted even better!

Yesterday, I got a ‘prize package’ that I was fortunate enough to win from the fine folks at Kiolbassa Sausage Dimples KiolbassaCompany and while, not a planned use for this evaluation…the Jalapeno Cheddar sausage went straight from the FedEx truck to my grill and then into my belly with some Dimples on top!  Once again, PERFECT! (excuse the caps 😉 ) Combining the heat of the Jalapeno, smoothness of the cheese and sweet, not too thick Dimples created a sweet heat that could not be beat! I have to admit…I wasn’t planning on that rhyme, but I’ll take it!

I have so many more menu ideas in mind for the Dimples that there’s not enough room to cover all the dishes in writing, but here are a few thoughts: Add it to Soups, Baked Beans and other Sauces to increase it’s appeal and enhance the flavors of your favorite dishes.  It would be really tasty on a thick burger with some smoked Hog Jowl and Blue Cheese too!  Possibilities are endless for this very versatile sauce that in their own words “defies all categories of smokey goodness”!

So, my final answer…go get you some Dimples and experiment on your own!  You won’t regret it and I am sure will find many more uses for it than I have so far.  I would give it two sticky thumbs up, but probably lick them first and that might gross some folks out, so instead I’ll simply recommend that you find a retailer or order some online!  They are at www.DimplesBBQSauce.com where you can find all the information you need to get some!  Why “Dimples” you might ask?  Well, word is that they are a common genetic characteristic in the members of this family owned small business and therefore add their ‘personal’ touch to each and every bottle!

Feel free to post photos or stories of your Dimples applications here on the Blog and look for it SOON in the GreatQ4U! Grill and Smoker shop when you’re in or around Central PA!  For more info about us, visit us online at www.GreatQ4U.com or find us on FaceBook and Twitter!

Planning Events, Booking and Pricing in 2014

By, Jim Knepper

Over the past 4 years, we’ve noticed along with many of our colleagues in the Catering and Event Services businesses that the economic conditions HAVE had many charcuterie-corse-3noticable effects on the way folks book events and event services.  One of the most notable is the shift from planning well in advance and locking in venues, caterers and ‘essential services’ for whatever type of event it is to ‘Just In Time’ Booking.  In other words, waiting until the last few months, or even days to Book.

While it is certainly understandable that poor economic conditions and uncertainty about the future would have these causal factors on the behavior of customers and Event Planners, as with every cause…there is an ‘effect’ and in the case of caterers, at least from our viewpoint, it often results in not getting the caterer that you’d like or perhaps having to scramble at the last moment and take whomever might be available on your date and time.  Either way, it’s never a good idea to wait until the final stages of planning to lock down your venue, caterer and entertainment…no matter who you choose.

Additionally, if you’re planning an event in 2014 and have not yet locked down on a caterer, you should know that for all but the ‘low bid’ folks in this business…we WILL be Pork-In-The-Park 2008seeing significant price increases on everything we use to source, cook and deliver your food.  From the rising costs of ‘commodities’, think Beef and Pork specifically (but just about all food prices are increasing rapidly this year for a number of complicated reasons) to the increasing costs of electricity, fuel for our vehicles and the cost of maintaining our equipment and certifications.  Some of us will absorb as much as we can, but at some point these costs HAVE to be passed along in order for us to stay in business.

I am taking the time to put these thoughts into writing ‘early’ in the season because every year as these months arrive, I find myself having difficult conversations with folks who have received Estimates from us over the past several months and call to Book only to find out that we are no longer available.  I am sympathetic to their situations and when possible, we do all that we can to accomodate…but when our calendar is full on any specific date…it’s full!  SO…no matter who your choosing to host, cater and entertain at your 2014 events, I would suggest BOOKING SOON in order to insure availability, save money and most importantly…save that last minute rush that leads to choosing whoever’s available on your date, which is rarely the best option for you.

Just one guy’s advice, but worth considering I think!  For more information on the many ways that we can help to make your next event memorable, check us out online at www.GreatQ4U.com or give me a call at 717-254-1937 and we will be happy to listen, work with you to build a menu to meet your budget and lock in one incredible experience for you!