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!

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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!

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

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

Another Friday Morning Thinking About Work!

By, Jim Knepper

Here I sit, one cup of coffee down and planning on a brief break from the keyboard to go get another…

…OK I’m back and refreshed!  Ready to get the day rolling and planning all the important ‘Business Stuff’ that I’ve got to do today.  All the while recalling having lunch with one of my first bosses in an open air food court years ago when he offered advice that I still think about today: “Jimmy, I never schedule anything for Friday afternoons”!

With that sage advice in mind, there is much to do on this Friday and I’m planning on getting ‘right on it’ as soon as I finish typing a few thoughts about our ongoing ‘evolution’ as a Catering and Event Planning company.  Specifically concentrating on a few things that we get the most questions about:

What kind of ‘Event Planning’ do you do? – After a decade of focusing specifically on our ‘core competency’ of Wood-Smoked BBQ Catering, we have worked with more than a few ‘Event Planners’, some great at what they do, others not-so-much!  I like to think that we’ve learned many lessons about that end of this business along the way and we are now able to put them to work for our customers!  No matter how much or little you’d like us to do, if you’re having any kind of event we can handle it!  From helping to identify venues to negotiating pricing and arranging for everything from Tents, Linens, Place settings, Entertainment and Food Service to suggesting options that may not have occurred to our customers…we are GOOD at making events special and memorable!

What’s up with the Fire Trucks?  Been getting this question a LOT lately and there are a few answers that aren’t evident simply because we haven’t had much of an opportunity to get photos of them ‘in action’ due to the Polar Vortex!  First Answer…they Station Qare the perfect ‘BBQ Battlewagons’ for our Competition BBQ Team to load up and travel to BBQ Competitions here in the NorthEast and they make people at the competitions smile…I like that!  Additionally, they are in the process of being completely outfitted to cater parties, specifically Tailgates or Outdoor gatherings.  We anticipate that the ‘sweet spot’ will be groups of up to 75 folks.  We will be able to ‘respond’ to your event, set up seating and entertainment (Flat Screen, Satellite HDTV, Gaming System, Sound System, CO2 dispensing system and more) while cooking an AWESOME meal for your guests, then clean up (overhaul) and roll out!  All while giving your guests something to remember!  SO…if you’re planning a tailgate in Philly, Baltimore, DC or Pittsburgh this Fall…NOW’s the time to book!

Do you do more than BBQ Now?  Funny question because we’ve always done far more than BBQ, but it has been the flagship of our sales and marketing efforts for 10GQ4U! Competition BBQ years now!  Obviously, we do really good BBQ, but we are a completely ‘custom’ caterer and are capable of building menus that meet just about any taste or budget and we work hard with every customer to fully understand their needs and then exceed them!

Well…that’s about enough as Friday afternoon rapidly approaches and I’ve got a busy ‘unscheduled’ day ahead!  I hope that everyone has a SPECTACULAR weekend and that if you’re planning an Event in or around Central PA this year, you give us a shot at making it extra special!  Visit us online at www.GreatQ4U.com or call me at 717-254-1937 and we’ll get started today…even though it IS Friday! – Be good! – jak