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!

Advertisements

Cookin’ the Whole Hog, Pig Pickin’s and Friday Mornings…

By, Jim Knepper

OK, so this post really doesn’t have much to do with Fridays other than it’s Friday as I type!  In fact, if you’re looking for a primer on how to cook a Whole Hog in BBQ Whole Hog Roasts ROCK!Competitions…it’s probably not for you either, although we do know lots of folks who do that well and can hook you up with them if you’d like.  This post is of course rooted in the fact that we’ve got a Whole Hog cooking class coming up on April 5th (www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html) and I’ve been thinking a LOT about it lately and the significance of it all.  It’s also a reflection on WHY we love to cook whole hogs and especially the significance of the ‘Pig Pickin’ in my mind as well.

First of all, to get the ‘That’s GROSS’ part out of the way…you don’t have to read this if the idea of the whole animal on the table grosses you out, but I’d suggest reading on to understand why WE think it’s an honor to the life and sacrifice of the food and not ‘disgusting’…which I hear every now and again!  I am a firm believer in knowing where your food comes from, how it was raised, what it ate and then, when the time comes, using as much of the animal as possible after its sacrifice in order to feed folks.  There are few better ways to do this, than to present the entire animal in a way that every part (sans the bones…but marrow is awesome) can be consumed…and those bones make great stock or soups!

As we cook ‘Low and Slow’ over wood smoke, we typically refer folks looking for a Suckling Hog‘cheap hog roast’ out to any one of the many folks in our area that cook ‘hot and fast’ over charcoal and do it often enough to be good at it, not to mention cheaper than us due to the method.  However, when WE do whole hogs we do them with the same attention to detail and timing that we put into all the other meats that hit our smoker.  Additionally, we take great care to make sure that the finished product looks great and presents with respect worthy of it’s life!  We choose local hogs and have our butcher prep them for us by scalding and cleaning them and then opening up the body cavity to clean it.  We leave the cleaned internal organs in the cavity during the cook and incorporate them into the finished product and its service.

While we do very few actual ‘Pig Pickins’ as they are done in North Carolina, a state that has vast influence on how we cook ALL our pork, we believe that the essence of the Pickin’ is evident in everything we do.  For the un-initiated, the Pig Pickin’ is a celebration of family, friends, food and the hog itself.  Typically it begins at sunrise when the chosen swine is sacrificed and all of it’s blood drained and saved.  These events typically host groups of folks who all have a task in using every part of the hog and they get right to work.  As the day goes on and the side dishes are prepared, sausages (including blood sausage) are made, organs are used in a variety of preparations and the hog is slowly roasted.

Once all the cooking is done and the crowd has gathered, the service begins!  There is music and friendship and most of all the ‘guest of honor’ served whole and with all of it’s edible components presented in a variety of ways for people to experience and appreciate.  It is the ultimate reverence for the life of the hog who has, since the beginning of recorded history, provided sustenance so that man (and woman) could live!  It is, I believe, the reason to cook and serve a whole hog…to connect the ‘end user’ with the ‘code’ that makes the whole human computer function correctly.

So, if you’re thinking about cooking a whole hog, don’t be intimidated!  There are many methods of doing it; from the wood fire to charcoal below or above it to the Luau method of cooking on Anyone Hungryheated rocks in the ground wrapped in banana leaves and covered with dirt and moist burlap…it’s a big part of human history and evolution!  It’s also easier than you might think to get it right and while you’re serving it, gives you a chance to get to know the different meat qualities from different sections of the animal, which makes you a better cook!

I am always happy to talk ‘BBQ’ with folks, so if you’ve got any questions, want to register for the class or just need to know how to do it where you live and with your gear…don’t hesitate to give me a call: 717-254-1937!  Always happy to help!  Hope that y’all have a GREAT weekend! – jak

BBQ Lover? Got one in your life? We’ve got ALL you need!

We say Merry Christmas around here!  Just to get that out of the way up front…BUT, that doesn’t mean that we don’t honor ALL the Holidays that are celebrated this time of year every year!  After all, diversity is what has made America the great country that it is and we celebrate THAT every day!  BUT…we only Celebrate the Christmas season ONCE a YEAR and that means LOTS of benefits for YOU!

We recently opened our FIRST EVER retail store at our shop in Mechanicsburg, PA and it is ALL STOCKED UP with American Made Primo Ceramic Grills/Smokers and GQ4U! New Tee BackBBQ Accessories!  We’ve got sauce, rubs and LOTS of GreatQ4U! Gear from hats and shirts to Gift and Loyalty cards that are the PERFECT gift for that hard to shop for Foodie on your list!  NOT ONLY will they receive bonus bucks rewards, they can use the cards on ANYTHING we sell: Catering, BBQ Classes, Consulting, Primo Grills and Accessories, GQ4U! gear and even a 5-Alarm Fire Truck Party!

It IS without question a tough economy and we get it!  In fact we feel it every day as well and we are doing our best to help in LOTS of ways!  We are offering the LOWEST prices of the year on Primo Grills, which are not only Made in the USA, they carry a 20 Primo All-In-One Kamodoyear warranty and in addition to being the LAST Grill you’ll ever need…they are as versatile as it gets!  From smoked meats to ‘Wood Fired’ Pizza that is JUST like in the best Pizza places and even baked goods…the Ceramic Grill produces INCREDIBLE results and we will MAKE sure you know HOW to achieve them before you leave the shop!  Our Primo Kamodo ‘All-In-One’ package includes EVERYTHING you need to get started; Grill/Smoker, Cradle with HD Casters, Shelves and Ash Tool!  AND you can get one before Christmas for UNDER $876!!

Our Catering division has NEVER had more options for our customers from our ‘Real Station QDeal’ Wood-Smoked BBQ to the new addition to our fleet: Fully Fun Featured and Functional Fire Trucks that are DECKED OUT in order to provide an AWESOME party experience!  CO2 dispensing systems, Flat Screen, Satellite TV’s, Gaming Systems and ready to ‘Respond’ to your party needs, provide great food and entertainment and then clean up and roll out!  Book SOON…we’ve had a LOT of interest!  BETTER YET, we are offering our Once A Year sale until December 31st…you can save 5% OFF the TOTAL of ANY size event!  Call us for details: 717-254-1937

Our BBQ Competition Team ended the year in Harrisburg, PA back in October and after a 3 year hiatus, we rolled out with two award calls and a great bunch of memories, we GQ4U! Competition BBQare busy preparing for an ACTIVE (for us) 2014 Season and planning on attending at least 6 major competitions!  Meanwhile, we are offering several options already for our 2014 ‘BBQ Master Class’ series with dates already scheduled and filling up in Jan, Feb and March so far with more to come.  For up to date info on dates and times, visit us online at: www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html

We’ve also got a full service Hospitality Consulting division and are capable of helping you work on everything from building a ‘BBQ Business’ or adding ‘Real’ BBQ to your existing menu to building and optimizing a successful website!  We have helped folks take a look at their operations and streamline to increase margins, customer satisfaction and employee productivity and satisfaction!  No matter your needs, we can help!

SO…there’s PLENTY of time left before Christmas to get on down and see us, we are open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 5:30pm to 9:00pm – Saturday from 10am to 2pm and Sundays from Noon to 4pm – OR by Appointment at your convenience!  We’re located at 105 Texaco Road in Mechanicsburg, PA 171050 and online at www.GreatQ4U.com – not to mention our Twitter and Facebook pages!  For personal attention, call Jim at 717-254-1937 Ext. 1 or E-Mail: Jim@GreatQ4U.com

The ‘New’ GreatQ4U!

By, Jim Knepper

So, if you’re a regular reader of the Blog…first of all, Thank You…secondly, you’ll notice that things around our Catering Company are changing pretty dramatically these days!  If you’re entirely new to our Blog and Company…well, you’ve come at a GREAT time!  We ARE indeed going through a number of significant changes, ALL of which are designed to allow us to continue to deliver a quality product AND maintain our commitment to providing individual service to each and every customer!

Our ‘Re-Branding’ includes a number of facets and all of them tie together into one clear focus…providing customers of all types in and around Central PA with FUN and MEMORABLE Events of ALL Types!  We are in the process of re-building our Antique Fire Trucks to feature Flat Screen TV’s, Satellite TV and Gaming Systems, CO2 Dispensing Systems and State-Of-The-Art Grills and Smokers!  We can configure our new ‘5 Alarm Parties’ just about any way you’d like and best of all…we do all the work, you just enjoy!

Additionally, we are expanding our menu and Catering Options to include onsite cooking of more ‘traditional’ Picnic menus that will include Hot Dogs, Kielbassa, Brats, Burgers, Elgin Sausage and more…along with the option of a Brazilian style cookout or a traditionally smoked specialty!  Once again…the choice is all yours, we will be happy to have an Event Specialist or ME if possible speak with you and make sure that we clearly understand your needs….then we’ll provide a number of options for you to consider!

HAH! As if that’s not enough we’ve got even MORE!!! If you live in or around Central PA or if your Company is having a Holiday Party and you’d like Santa himself to arrive in an Antique Fire Truck then hand out Candy, Holiday Treats, Employee Recognition Gifts or whatever you’d like!  We are CURRENTLY BOOKING for ALL of December with 30 minute visits starting at $250 (within 10 miles of Mechanicsburg, PA) – For details call Jim at 717-254-1937 Ext. 1 and we’ll be happy to lock in your date and time!

SO….that’s enough for now, but still only a fraction of what we’ve got going on…hense the lack of Blogging…been working!  We are proud to have a new Shop in Mechanicsburg, PA to house our Fully Fun Featured Fire Trucks and a Tasting Room along with all of our Catering Supplies and more!  We look forward to welcoming our friends and online companions to the shop soon for a ‘Housewarming’!  SO….stay tuned and thanks again for following along! – jak

GQ4U BBQ Battlewagon

OK…So Much For Keeping Up the Blog!

By, Jim Knepper

Of course (again), I’ve got several good reasons for not taking the time to sit down and type about any of the following ‘happenings’ in real-time, but in the end I thought it better to wait until all the puzzle pieces were in place…….kind of!

SO, with that said, I CAN say that there’s been a LOT going on around here the past month or so!  We have acquired and are currently retrofitting the ‘BBQ Battlewagon’…our Antique Mack Fire Truck that will not only anchor our 2014 Competition efforts, but serve as a unique way to entertain guests at Parties, Tailgates and Events of all types!

GQ4U BBQ Battlewagon

In order to house the fleet of fully fun featured fire trucks, we’ve added a shop or ‘Station Q’ which whill not only be the new hub of our catering operations, based conveniently in Mechanicsburg, PA…it will serve as a ‘multi-purpose’ facility for tastings, Competition practice, BBQ Classes and more!

Station Q

Speaking of BBQ Classes, the addition of our new shop in Mechanicsburg has allowed us to accelerate scheduling our first round of the ‘BBQ Master Class’ series in 2014 with dates and pricing on the website (http://www.greatq4u.com/BBQ_Classes.html).  Additionally, we will be adding more classes to the schedule soon!  We are limiting class attendance to the first 15 folks who sign up…so if you’re interested, book soon!

On top of all that, we are offering our Customers and Friends a chance to have Santa show up at your location in our Antique Fire Truck and hand out gifts of your choice to your guests!  For more details on this unique and memorable service and more, please feel free to call or e-mail: 1-855-900-4BBQ or Jim@GreatQ4U.com

WOW…Did Anyone Get the Number of THAT TRAIN???

By, Jim Knepper

SO, this is what happens when I don’t Blog?  Consider it ‘lesson learned’!  I (of course) have MANY good reasons and explanations for my online derelictions, but you don’t read the Blog for THAT….you want to know what’s going ON!

Well, a LOT has been going on after the slowest season EVER for us and many of our suppliers and customers, we did a great deal of re-evaluation and to be honest, 3 weeks ago it looked as if we would go back to being a Competition Team that occasionally did catering…and that was OK with me!  THEN…..***BAM…BAM….BAM*** I can’t recall what hit me, but all of the sudden, everything is different!

Within the last 3 weeks, we have welcomed ‘Big Mack’, our ‘BBQ Battlewagon’ (aka: 1971 CF Mack Fire Truck) which in addition to its personal significance to me as the first type of Engine that I ever rode on over 30 years ago as a young GQ4U BBQ BattlewagonFirefighter/Paramedic…she’s a LOOKER!  Her ‘Debut’ was QUICK and quite well received by our fellow BBQ Teams at the Keystone Classic in Harrisburg, where after we returned from a 3 year Competition ‘hiatus’…we managed Two Calls with a team that had never cooked together before…not bad for us! 😀

THEN…we have begun to get inundated with requests to have the Fire Truck provide OBR Harrisburg 1013our latest offering; the ‘5 Alarm Tailgate’ party!  We can roll in, set up, cook, provide entertainment and draught drinks then clean up, tear down and roll out…all in style!  In addition to ‘Big Mack’, we plan on welcoming ‘Squirt’ in the next few weeks…a 1985 Pierce 50′ Telesquirt that adds a HUGE visual impact, provides overhead lighting and is the PERFECT place to fly your flag! (Literally!)

With all of THIS going on, we needed a place to put it all together and next week, we will provide specific details about ‘Station-Q’ – Our new HQ in Mechanicsburg, PA and conveniently located!  We will house the Fire Fleet, have a tasting area and be able to hold classes and demonstrations at the new facility and we are all REALLY excited!  We are making a BIG INVESTMENT in Central PA because we believe in YOU!  We’ll do our part for SURE!

SO…buckle up and enjoy the ride…it’s going to be a CRAZY ‘off season’! – O’h and consider yourself invited to the Christmas Party at Station Q! 🙂 – jak

Monday, Monday…

…and I’m not exactly feeling ‘Blogtastic’!  Could be the sun and warm morning (FINALLY) or possibly the stretched tendon in my left thumb that has reared its ugly head again following years of relatively quiet torment…nonetheless…here I am doing my best to type away! 🙂

As with the vast majority of my BBQ Brethren, this time of year REALLY gets my juices flowing!  We clean out the smokers, prepare the outdoor kitchens, work on recipes, disinfect and powerwash the coolers and Cambros and check out the latest in ‘BBQ Gadgets’ on the market!  It’s a BBQ revival and ritual that comes every year, just about this time!

Without question, things are different this time around though…the effects of the Economy evident on the Booking Schedule and in the prices of our raw product!  We are doing MUCH to help out, including creating more cost-effective ways to deliver GreatQ to you and your guests.  We’re expanding menus and adding some incredible options to reach a wider range of customers and we have a REALLY cool chance for folks who want to learn how to do ‘Real Deal’ BBQ to choose a class that meets their specific needs OR take a whole series of classes that will walk you through the whole process!

We are being re-born and can officially call a start to ‘BBQ Season 2013’ and as we approach our 10th Anniversary as a Catering Company…we are thankful for all that we have!  Great customers, incredible followers online, true mentors and of course…Blog readers!  Stay tuned for more thoughts as this ‘Game Keeper’s Thumb’ gets better!  Have a GREAT week and make every day count! – jak

Chuckwagon Catering