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

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What IS the “Competition BBQ Experience”?

By, Jim Knepper

OK, so I thought that a last minute decision to compete in a BBQ Competition combined with the in-availability of some of the ‘usual crew’ gave us a GREAT chance to give some of our fans and followers a chance to be a part of the ‘Team’ and see just what it’s like to compete for a win in a BBQ Competition!  SEEMED like an innocent enough thought at the time!

In fact, I put even MORE thought into it than that!  I considered the possible effects of having new or in-experienced BBQ Enthusiasts interrupting the ‘workflow’ of the team and concluded that, in order to make SURE that the folks who join us are ‘invested’ in the effort, there should be a ‘barrier’ of sorts and in my mind, the easiest was the cost of ‘buying in’ to the effort.

With that in mind, I got to thinking about what the best ‘investment’ might be to attract the willing and able?  I came up with $250 per person for up to 4 folks and realized that it was a LOT of money for the average BBQ Enthusiast, so I put together a ‘Package’ that included; T-Shirts, Swag, Hats, two separate Dinners and a Party…all for the $250…in ADDITION to getting a chance to learn by doing!

Well…boy did the floodgates unleash on ME!  ‘Making other people PAY for YOUR Competition’, ‘BBQ Team for Sale’, ‘WOW, that’s too much for me!’ and many more from Twitter, FaceBook and just about every direction!  Then it came from the other side….and wow….that was NOT what I intended!

Reality is that the value of the meals and ‘stuff’ is right around $250!  I can’t really estimate the value of being an integral part of a Competition BBQ Team that has the equipment, product, recipes and workflow to be a SERIOUS challenger in this event!  In fact, if (like me) you are the ‘learn by doing’ type…this WILL be a great experience!  You will NOT simply be ‘token’ team members…you’ll participate!  You will have ample opportunity to ask questions, see techniques and products and network with some of the best BBQ folks in Central PA too!

SO…that’s MY take on it!  We are NOT ‘Selling Out’!  By NO means will the $1K from our ‘Guest Team Members’ come CLOSE to even beginning to cover the cost of the Competition for us AND I still think it’s a GREAT Opportunity!  If you are interested in learning how to do BBQ at Home, we offer a full array of BBQ Classes for Novice, Intermediate and Advanced BBQ folks too! (http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html)  We have yet to schedule them, but dates will be up soon!

If you have any questions or you would like to join us, we’d LOVE to have you!  It’s in Harrisburg, PA on October 4th and 5th at the Farm Show Complex!  The Keystone BBQ Classic is a PA State Championship event and we are looking forward to competing!  My e-mail is: Jim@GreatQ4U.com feel free to ask any questions! 🙂

GQ4U! at Pork In The Park

Evolution, Re-Invention, Continue to Blog…

By, Jim Knepper

OK…so maybe these are not daily Blog posts, but they are ‘regular’!  As my past few posts may imply, there’s been a LOT on my mind and LOTS to do as we try to figure out a ‘way forward’ as the educated ‘city types’ say! (no offense!)  Alas, that’s a BIG task in an economy that confounds even seasoned vets and large companies with years of experience!  There is indeed a perfect storm of things occurring right now that make one wonder if there’s any way out intact!

Q PhotosWell, as with ANY storm…there is always an end and as the Finals of the America’s Cup races continue in San Francisco bay, I should say as any good sailor would…we will make it through!  We are going to look a bit different on the other side, but will continue to focus on local, sustainable and responsible product done right!  Cutting corners to make a buck simply is not in the cards for us!

SO…what better way to move forward than to COMPETE??? We haven’t been out there on the Competition Circuit for a few years and it always helps one focus to be around fellow ‘BBQ People’…therefore we’re planning on competing at the Keystone BBQ Classic at the PA Farmshow Complex on 10/4-5!  It will be a triumphant return to competition and a great time for all involved!

Since the inspiration to compete hit us a bit late and folks have their Fall schedules Sam's Tour Richmond 1pretty well set, we are light on team members so we couldn’t think of a better time to give some of our fans and fellow foodies a chance to see what it’s like to be on a competition BBQ Team!  That said, we are offering four spots on the team for the event as a ‘Competition BBQ Experience’ for $250 per person!

DSC_0092WOW Jim, that’s some $$$! What do you get for $250???  Excellent question my friends…there are of course the ‘tangible perks’, most notably a chance to participate in a Planning Session Dinner, REAL involvement as part of the Team, a GreatQ4U! T-Shirt and Embroidered Baseball Cap, a Bag-O-GQ4U!-Swag, Team Dinner on Friday Night and an Invite to the After Party!  THEN…there are the ‘in-tangible’ benefits of being a part of a team that is seriously focused on showing Central PA that we KNOW how to DO SOME ‘QUE!!!

If you’ve got any interest, the first four folks who are available will get the slots…so e-mail Jim@GreatQ4U.com for more info!  We do accept Credit Cards.

OK, how’s THAT for a Blog Post!  See you again soon! – jak

Another Year and Not One Competition…

….woe is me!  I truly enjoy going to BBQ Competitions to Compete, Judge or simply to just check out everyone’s gear and gadgets and catch up with old friends!  If you’ve never been to one…you should definitely check one out…they are quite enjoyable for many of your senses!

In fact…now that I mention it, there’s one in Harrisburg THIS WEEKEND!!! The Annual Keystone Classic which is put on by the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association (we are a business member) at the Farm Show Complex!  You can find out all about it here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Keystone-Classic-Barbeque-State-Championship/136817849682614#!/pages/Keystone-Classic-Barbeque-State-Championship/136817849682614?sk=info

If you can’t make it to the Farm Show this weekend, you can check out the schedule on the Kansas City BBQ Society website and find one just about anytime no matter where you may be! (www.kcbs.us) It will be an enjoyable way to spend a day for not too much $$$!  AND…if you are the adventurous kind of person, many even have a ‘Backyard Chef’ category that you can enter your stuff in!

That is all for today…stuff to do, BBQ to plan for…make it a GREAT DAY!!!

Support ALL Things BBQ!

OK, I’ve got a couple of things to address in this entry…most notably my intentional omission of ‘other’ BBQ Organizations names in my post the other day about why you should join KCBS (Today! – www.kcbs.us).  I did mention that you should join as many organizations as you possibly can…all have something unique to offer.  BBQ is very much a regional thing and belonging to groups of BBQ lovers from different areas, backgrounds or any other BBQ persuasions can only enrich your total BBQ-ness!

Let’s see, you’ve got the National BBQ Association (www.nbbqa.org) leading the way on the National stage and working collaboratively quite often with KCBS to spread the BBQ love.  Locally here in the NorthEast we’ve got the Mid-Atlantic BBQ Association (www.mabbqa.com) and the famous New England BBQ Society (www.nebs.org) along with several other regionally significant groups of fellow BBQ aficionados that you should seek out and support if you can!  – In the event you were wondering WHY I didn’t mention any other groups in my KCBS lovefest the other day (I DO Love KCBS!) – I didn’t want to do the inevitable and leave a name or two out (it’s a Blog, not a ‘Links’ page) AND I am sensitive to the fact that joining all these groups costs $ and while it’s a worthy investment…lots of us have to watch every penny this year!  Either way…support all you can!!!

OK, now that we’ve got THAT out of the way…here are a few OTHER BBQ things you should support; ANY BBQ Shack…if they’re OPEN…stop in and give it a try…EVEN IF YOU JUST ATE!!!  I have mentioned in previous posts that the risk associated with this particular strategy is that you’ll no doubt have more than a couple negative BBQ experiences in the process, but they are at least trying and helping to spread the love!  You should also support SAUCE/SPICE Shops! Yep,  find a local sauce or spice shop and patronize it as often as you can!  Experiment with different rubs and sauces of all types on your smoker and you’ll be rewarded…meanwhile you’re forging a relationship that will help you as you continue down the road of BBQ enlightenment!  Finally (and certainly not all inclusively) you should support your local BBQ Caterer! 🙂 (Except the guy advertising that he’ll ‘beat anyone elses price’…you get what you pay for!)

  Thanks for reading the Blog…I’m always happy to hear your thoughts, suggestions or disagreements! (I’m not AS happy to hear your disagreements, but I’ll still listen to them!)